Friday, May 1, 2009

final post

Summing it all up is a difficult task especially given the range of topias traversed within such a short amount time. I could go about such a task in the standard categorical way (looking at the difference in god / sexes/ community power structure/ etc.) but that would not benefit me as I've already for the most part done just that.
I guess I could start off by saying I feel like I've emerged from a Sci-Fi nightmare as even when the going got good in stories such as Herland with woman ruling and men submitting there was still a treacherous side to be had. And this double sided good/bad dichotomy is found in the best and the not so great of them. I've realized now that the scariest part of a bad dream isn't what's going on, but what isn't going on. I say this in such a manner so as to allude to the lack evident in the different stories: such as the lack of race...the lack of diversity...the lack of a "happily ever after" that wasn't contingent on it being set off from something truly negative: for instance woman domination - set off from abusive patriarchal practices or interracial coupling - set off from the violent intolerance of it and so on.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I thoroughly dislike sci fi literature for the fact that it explores possibilities within the same paradigm it is attempting to escape: and this last statement is perhaps the biggest take away - there is not escape as long as two things function within the same system...

There's something to Mark Ward's statement about time orientation and utopia - Because as I see it - those writing with the same ideological grounding - as in those from the western/occident -are functioning under the same notion of time and as Walter Ong and Eric hAvelock state in there respective texts - a group's relationship with time necessarily impacts and thus influences their traditions, actions, governing bodies etc...What I'm trying to say here is that sci fi as we've been exposed to never departs from the Western time orientation and as such never creates a space in which true potentialities can take effect and as such they leave us only as:
this or that
white or black
right or wrong
even in their necessary complication of them. In the end, irregardless of the nature of the topia something is:
still black
still white
still wrong
still right
and as such cannot be envisioned as some type of great construction.

To put it simply sci fi amounts to a shirt - turned inside out
A belief system turned inside out
the shirt is still a shirt
except all the seams that make it work are visible.
A belief system is still a belief system except all the things that make it work are made visible
then is the greatest contribution sci fi offers me
And that...I appreciate.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Connecting Red Mars to Art

When I think on Robinson's work as a whole it reads on a very different level than what I typically think of as sci fi because it explores lines of thought very much in tune with philosophy and art.

Within Robinson's work we confront a notion that has been explored extensively by the artist duo Arakawa + Gins. This in the notion of "reversible destiny"
Essentially, it is a type of philisophy that the duo worked out that speaks to enabling humans to live eternally ... by refusing to die. In working toward non-death humans are required to establish architecture...places of that accomodates them and in fact encourage life by constantly reminding one that they are alive.

I cant help but see the parallel in arkady's "socio-architectural theories"(pg 339) and again in the types of architecture that abound on Mars in general. It echos in the actualized architecture of Arakawa + Gins' park "reversible destiny" based in Japan

One step past this is an additional connection articulated in Arakawa + Gins' manifesto - in the form of an introduction to their book "Architectural Body"
In which they go about stating the following:

Without doubt, the human race has hideously acquiesced in regard to its own abysmal fate. Underlying all cultures, in East and West alike, is this assumption or attitudinal stance: we--each and every one of us--must die, no doubt about it, for all those who lived before us died. So unquestionably mortal are we that we have even come to call ourselves mortals, for God's sake. Everyone everywhere wants to insist on this. A bunch of defeatists all. Nobody wants to be caught not getting the "real" straight, for not accurately registering what comes to pass puts one at odds with society. How could what so evidently stares one in the face not be, after all, what it rings true as? (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Architecture must be made to fit the body as a second, third, fourth, and, when necessary, ninth (and counting) skin. We believe that people closely and complexly allied with their architectural surrounds can succeed in outliving their (seemingly inevitable) death sentences! (A/G Architectural body Intro)

It must never be forgotten that we don't know what we are in the first place. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Although the human condition is a crisis condition if ever there was one, few individuals and societies act with the dispatch a state of emergency requires. The fact that the human condition is a crisis condition gets routinely covered up, with culture invariably functioning to obscure how dire the condition is and to float it as bearable(A/G Architectural body Intro)

All intellectual pursuits thus far, in East and West alike, have been largely stopgap measures, so much fiddling while Rome burns, that is, while people line up one after another to die. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Consider this: An organism-person allied with, in close correspondence with, surroundings that guide skillful coordination of bodily actions ought to be able to escape so-called human destiny, the as-if-ordained downhill course of things. Not only will houses and towns that architecturally guide and sustain an organism-person help her to compose, execute, and coordinate actions more skillfully than was ever before thought to be possible, they will also automatically enlist her in a thoroughgoing architectural questioning of the purpose of the species. An architecturally guided and sustained organism-person should then be able to reverse that destiny known to have been the lot of billions of other members of her species; when it becomes possible for an organism-person simply to go on indefinitely, a reversible destiny shall have been achieved. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Architecture is the greatest tool available to our species, both for figuring itself out and for constructing itself differently. (A/G Architectural body Intro)

And the body, a complex organism that is always in the process of reading surroundings, needs to be defined together with that within which it moves; peering at it from the other way around, the surroundings need to be defined together with the bodies moving within them (A/G Architectural body Intro)

Theoretical constructs as to the nature of person can be assessed in a thoroughgoing manner through -- and, in the end, only through -- architectural construction.(A/G Architectural body Intro)

The way in which these key phrases parallel the ideas that are quilted into Robinson's novel is rather compelling. For does he not explore in extensive detail the very acts that A/G call for? Indeed!
Terrafoam, Sax's arctic asteroid, the DNA manipulation, moholes, Olympus Mons, The offspring of Hiroko's clan, the paul bunyon tale,Frank's Neitzche quote about the individual (pg 456)and so on.
In closing, I think it important to look to works aside from lit theory in understanding a text for texts are ineed dynamic things that are heavily influenced and influentual in different areas. Though this is known at our level of study I still think we must remember...that there is music, dance, art, photography, and subcultures waiting for inclusion in our analysis beyond the obvious: such as punk - for cyberpunk lit.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cultural Seed plot

Roy Wagner in his text "The Invention of Culture " states that culture is invented "whenever and wherever some 'alien' or 'foreign' set of conventions is brought into relation with one's own"(10). This notion applied to Red Mars makes for quite a compelling read in that there are multiple cultures being invented simultaneously. There is the culure that forms between the members of the first hundred who are in themselves representative of there respective governments and with it their national traditions. There is the culture that slowly emerges between earth and mars via the overseeing committee (UNOMA)in contact with the first hundred based on observation and regulation of activites. There is the culture that emerges between the members of the first hundred and the planet. And the culture that comes about as the occupation spreads.
So what to do make of it??
Well, one way to look at the cultural invention of Red Mars is to look at it through the eco-economics lens that Robert Markely refers to in his article. And though this may seem inappropriate it really isn't at all...Because while Markley seems taken with the notion of eco-economics in terms of the bio-system interactions that have taken place in the novel, it can be argued that this same notion can appropriately be applied to the culture invention/clash/collision taking place along side the biosystem evolution. For indeed the culture invention/clash/collision is made up of complex relationships that result in making apparent the "interlocking systems that create and sustain tenuous seemingly miraculaous conditions that allow life to flourish"(775). It is these relationships - the more intimate ones to be exact, that keep the momentum of the novel moving. It is so because within each relationship one finds a small scale cultural invention in that those who are bound up in intimate relationships function initially in different cultural paradigms thus in coming together sexually, religiously, politically, amicably they serve to create/invent a new way of being. And this can be readily seen in the Maya/Frank/John love/hate triangle; the nadia/arcady romance; the Michel Duval/Hiroko/areophany affair; and ann and "her" mars to name a few. Each of those mentioned relationships create a "social" and gives to Mars a foreign culture. And while this giving is taking place Mars continues to provide them with the backdrop of opportunity placing the relationships and the culture that amounts from them in a dynamic coupling with the planet.

All this talk of cultural invention (which is by its nature divisive) though is rather ironic given the "trans" lable under which the colonization of Mars occuring. That is not to say that there aren't subversive characters such as Arcady, Ann, Sax who in their own ways are working against the division that one can't help but be confronted with within the framework of culture; however, Robinson makes explicit that transcendance of cultural boundaries cannot be escaped. And this is pointed to implicitly by Willima White in his article that discusses Greimas' semantic rectangle. For cant we argue that robinson utilizes this tool to emphasize just how bound humans are to binary systems?

This last question brings me to my final point.

Wagner in his novel makes it explicit that culture is a convention that we ourselves have created. Following this line of thought then..culture is "made up" or created by us. As such (I'm tying this notion to Robinson now)no matter how far we travel we cannot escape the boundaries of our own making.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What's this war in the heart of nature?

Singing :
"War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing"

Slonczewski's novel speaks to me in a political sense; conjuring up sympathetic echoes of movies: mainly that of "Thin Red Line" a movie about the occupation of Guadacanal during WWII.

Almost poetic in their thinking: Shora's collective speaks in and among notions of altruism, moral codes, love, and unity. And this is done in the face of death: that is represented by Joan S in a way that plays up its multiplicity. For Death is: The act or fact of dying; the end of life; the final cessation of the vital functions of an animal or plant or individual. It is a personified agent - a state or condition of being without life, animation, or activity.
And then there is death-in-life, life that lacks any satisfaction or purpose; living death.

Moreover death is: the loss or cessation of life in a particular part or tissue of a living being; Loss of sensation or vitality, state of unconsciousness, the being or becoming spiritually dead. The loss or deprivation of civil life; the fact or state of being cut off from certain rights and privileges, as by banishment, imprisonment for life, etc. The end, extinction, destruction, Bloodshed, slaughter, murder
A general mortality.

All of the above are played out in the invasion and occupation of Shora in episodes such as : Merwen's detainment, Spinel's staged assimilation, Shora's ebb and flow in light of the Valan's attempt to moderate it via violent pesticides/poisons, the death of individual Shorans, in Bernice, and Realgar rein and resignation.

Joan S indeed related death to the political and embeds only its onesided meaning (death in the negative as an act inflicted on another without apparent influence on the arbiter) within the language of valans while defining it in dynamic terms within the language of the Shoran's(sharers) which imbues all that are involved with a sense of responsibility. Perhaps it is this train of thought that leads me to thinking on "The Thin Red Line" a movie (much different from the book for sure) which reflects the thoughts of soldiers very much informed by the dynamic notion of death.

Soldiers think, while in the jungle in looking upon death or after being affected by violent death the following thoughts:

"Where is it that we were together? Who were you that I lived with? The brother. The friend. Darkness, light. Strife and love. Are they the workings of one mind? The features of the same face? Oh, my soul. Let me be in you now. Look out through my eyes. Look out at the things you made. All things shining."

We. We together. One being. Flow together like water. Till I can't tell you from me. I drink you. Now. Now

This great evil. Where does it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doin' this? Who's killin' us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin' us with the sight of what we might've known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed to this night?

Maybe all men got one big soul everybody's a part of, all faces are the same man

If I never meet you in this life, let me feel the lack; a glance from your eyes, and my life will be yours

These quotes taken together reflect the core of the sharer's belief: the unselfish devotion to the welfare of others b/c of the interconnectedness of all things. What is more is that Joan S. confronts the multiplicity of death with loveforce - something that was not alloted to the soldiers of guatacanal as an option.
She enables the sharer's with a resistance against the proliferation of war - indeed b/c they refuse to participate with outwardly violent means toward man, and in doing so open themselves to the will of those who wished to inhabit them. Their lifestyle heavily dependent on natural science combat, so to speak, the tyranny of the valan's by engaging them in terms of survival on Shora and BY shora- a feat that could only be accomplished by them and those educated in their ways.

Stepping away from the text, Joan S admits that her novel was informed by the political maneuvers that were occuring during the time she was composing. Indeed, her political stance is made clear: power moves made between nations are based on what a soldier from "thin red line" states quite concisely : "Property. The whole fucking thing's about property" Is this not the kernel around which Door Into the Ocean is composed?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Molly a theory? One of Many Questions

Cyborg Man and Neuromancer compared, results in viewing Case as a transcedent led to such a state by Molly - a inherently transcedent being:

"Political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point"(Cyb. Man)

One october night ...past... fissure authority...[case] saw three figures....the third figure...was himself (352)

The McCaffery reading conjures up the following questions:
He states that cyberpunk addresses what the philosophical, moral, and cultural issues are. In looking to neuromancer through this lense the following seem to be the issues addressed:
centralized control and surveillance, sexual boundaries (what is it to be a man or a woman?),body alteration- motivations/methods, the divide b/n humans and technology, free choice, the definition of what it means to be human, assimilation, information obsession/mediation, definition of experience - sensoral / physical - real or imagined, the authority of subjectivity vs objectivity, The definition of what "real" is, coding practices / categorization / topoi - their role in an information saturated environment.
Reverence of the natural - lifecycles/creation, classism, What does it mean to "live" through others - is it legitimate? What does it mean to think through others? - it's implications - this hits close to home - theory the study of other thinkers - thinking in their terms - intellectual property

Could we look at Molly as a theory? A frame of how to look at the information we are faced with?

What is the origin of truth within the matrix? This question leads to...
Maria Alcof, a stand point feminist, and her take on a hermenuetical approach to truth via gadamer/heidegger:

Alcoff discusses "understanding," a result of truth, as being able to be found in the process of interpreting or rather in the moment of interpretation, that takes into account the inter-relatedness of history, politics, temporal, and spacial aspects of the observer and that which is being obeserved. She essentially talks about "truth" in terms of an "event" that occurs as a result of taking into consideration the social horizon (gadamer reference here)of the observer and that which the observer seeks to understand. With this in mind we can look to pg 318 of Neruromancer at the following statement - "...said it was like an event. An' it was our horizon. Event horizon, he called it"

The former quotation refers to an elusive place...we can call it grounding...that linda and case are in pursuit of. It seems that the neuromancer has no problem in accessing this place and in fact one can look at the closing sequence - in which case transcends - as occuring in this elusive place.

Concannon and Gibson - take a run for the border
Where are the borders of the matrix? aside from those who can access it and those who cannot? Beyond the "eastern seaboard fission authority?"
These questions turn to issues of the limit of information - as a society we have not acknowledged the alpha/omega (beginning/end of information - how does one delineate such?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tiptree / Sheldon- T/ruth is in the system

Tiptree Sheldon manipulates the relationship between man and woman, man and science, woman and other, and woman and science. Perhaps she does this for the reasons Jameson discusses in Chapter 8: the impossibility of comprehending that which is unknown. If this is so, she uses this trope of "unknowabiliity" to show the inability of man in contrast to the ability of woman. I assert this because, in Tiptree/Sheldon short stories man's perspective is often restricted to and wholly influenced by a "closed" prescriptive paradigm that relies on religion or on traditional male stereotypical behaviour and the thought patterns that support such behaviour. In contraposition to man's perspective is woman's "open" descriptive paradigm.
This is most explicitly seen in "houston, houston" and the "women men don't see". In Houston Houston the crew of the Sunbird all exemplify different yet related systems of belief. All three are grounded in science however are varied beyond that central sytstem of belief. Bud holds a male-centric, woman as chattle and secondary viewpoint, Dave holds to Christian doctrine that imbues man with power while placing woman in servtitude, and Dr Lorimer, though not holding to any belief aside from science, does not understand life and civilization without a male-centric system in place. Close in resemblance is Don. His belief with regards to women, extrapolated from his observations of Ruth and her daughter, hold men as being naturally dominant and the purveyor of reason, safety, and the undeniable center of survival.

The antagonists of the men are woman who are self sufficient and have found ways to survive beyond the limits of the system of beliefs the men hold to. In addition, they have embraced potential of technology and in the case of "women men don't see" a completely foreign culture(that of the aliens) and with it their beliefs.

By Tiptree/Sheldon enacting a positive relationship between woman and belief systems aside or beyond those that the men function within, she also enacts an oppositional relationship between men and women so much so that both find the other - replaceable. This last fact is seen in Ruth and her daughter's opting to go away with aliens in lieu of staying with the men at the crash site, it is also seen in the woman of Gloria(and the civilization they repesent, in their reliance on cloning and their extermination of the men, given that they now had means to survive without them.

In an alternate way the same relationship between woman and man are played out in "girl plugged in", "screwfly", "love...", "Your Faces". In the first story man literaly embraces/ falls in love with science and technology and allows it to displace woman all together. In screwfly - religion is seen as annihilating the already delicate relationship between man and woman. In "love.." and "your faces.." alternate takes of reality displace the male/female relationship.

What is evident in all of the previously discussed work is the fact that the male/female relationship is not fixed as society proclaims it to be. It is in fact malleable, captive to those beliefs we choose to view as truth.
This last mention of truth is purposeful as Tiptree/Sheldon refers to it in "women men don't see" via Althea (Heidegerrian notion of truth?) the daughter of ruth - who is searching out her/society's missing T... Truth is in the system

Monday, February 23, 2009

a' dios mio! Shame on Piercy

This novel is about more than utopian visions and dystopian possbilities. It is about mental illness.

In being about mental illness Piercy takes upon herself a large endeavour of representing a mental illness and its mis/treatment accurately. Upon engaging this book, I had a reservation about fictional treatment (in the form of her text) being an appropriate medium for dealing with such a grossly misunderstood subject. And my concern in not unfounded given that at the time this book was produced there was a serious concern within the field of phychiatry about the diagnosis of schizophrenia. The following is an excerpt from the wiki regarding the matter:
"The diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia was the subject of a number of controversies which eventually led to the operational criteria used today. It became clear after the 1971 US-UK Diagnostic Study that schizophrenia was diagnosed to a far greater extent in America than in Europe.[208] This was partly due to looser diagnostic criteria in the US, which used the DSM-II manual, contrasting with Europe and its ICD-9. David Rosenhan's 1972 study, published in the journal Science under the title On being sane in insane places, concluded that the diagnosis of schizophrenia in the US was often subjective and unreliable.[209] These were some of the factors in leading to the revision not only of the diagnosis of schizophrenia, but the revision of the whole DSM manual, resulting in the publication of the DSM-III in 1980.[210] Since the 1970s more than 40 diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia have been proposed and evaluated.[33]"

I bring up this point because Piercy brings schizophrenia under critical investigation within this piece by bringing focus to temporality (through discussing the loss of chronological "real time" by hallucination or time travel..a'hem hallucination), physical disassociation from the environment, and paranoia. In addition, she interrogates and lashes out at the system of treatment in place for schizophrenics or mentally disturbed individuals.

Some argue that Piercy does the above to deconstruct societal taboos and uninformed views about schizophrenia and mental illness so as to open up dialogue about conditions often dismissed and misunderstood. I argue that Piercy is irresponsible in her treatement of mental illness in that by creating the time travel / schizophrenic dichotomy she actively works to sustain the misunderstanding of mental illness and succeeds only in a minimal sense the humanizing of Connie and the others within the Bellvue Ward. And perhaps Peircy was only looking to humanize those of society that have been dismissed due to psychological deviance; however, in doing so perhaps she should have realized the subversive potential of the utopian narrative in negating those characteristics of Connie, Sybil, etc that made them...recognizable as more than just another loon.

Booker was right in celebrating Piercy's book as making contributions to the dystopia/utopia tradition; however, he does not discuss at what cost such a text achieved it's standing. The aforementioned, I hope begins that dialogue

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The current/future state of things Eliot/Brunner

There is an uncanny similarity between TS Eliot's Wasteland and Brunner's Sheep Look Up.
To begin, both are complicated pieces centering on the state of a reality that is tied not to one character but several. In a strategic manner both Brunner and Eliot set up and execute social commentaries that reflect for the latter the current state of things and for the former the future state of things.

Both begin their works with the image of death, decay and dying. While Eliot upfront questions the fate of man, emphasizing the fragmented past and implying that such a past could only lead to a futile future, Brunner questions the current state of his characters of the future, while emphasizing his character's and reader's fragmented present. By beginning in such a way, they both establish and work toward developing a theme wholly involved with the bleak state/fate of man. It is this theme narrative that sets the stage for a discussion about the current/future environment.

The moves that are most compelling in each work coincide as well. Both Elliot and Brunner, in the beginning of and throughout their works attempt to “wake up” their audience. They do so through directly engaging the reader: Elliot through initially calling the reader out by name and Brunner by utilizing a filigree of ads, short excerpts, and poetry that explicitly expose the declined environment of his characters’ "now". In addition, and perhaps more importantly both works establish the notion of mankind as not made up of autonomous individuals but interconnected entities that thrive, die, and suffer individually yet collectively.

Another thread that is paralleled in these two works is the statement about the decay of society physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Both Brunner and Elliot use nature, myth, urban waste, and biblical reference to create this statement. They do so to create a statement that speaks to how society is now (the now being defined in relation to their characters) lifeless or actively becoming so because their spirits have departed or in the case of Brunner are being forced to depart. This departure, both writers attribute to political affairs.

Another similarity between the two is their use of images to display the unnatural state of man. While Elliot couples contradicting images to evoke the incongruence of them, Brunner juxtaposes messages from different media with the lives of characters such as Pete Goddard and Philip Mason (death of a salesman?) who exemplify the last strong hold of the traditional family.

Overall both writers appear to emphasize the idea that death – described both spiritually and physically is imminent and does not discriminate. They do so by displaying how industry, which seems to be one of both writers' biggest dislikes, is ultimately valueless in that it leads to death and cannot be spun for profit within the grips of it.

Finally, they also emphasize the importance of time by warning the reader of the mortality of men. They do so by placing man in a sterile environment (politically, religiously, and physically) that not only provides no opportunity for growth but also limits the life a person has while residing within it.

In the end, both Eliot and Brunner leave off their works in purposeful ambiguity: so as to beg the question: can society, a reason-centered entity, recover or will chaos undermine reason?

Monday, February 2, 2009

...who happens to be black

I've heard this phrase fact I've said it myself. Maria, who happens to be Latino, or Paul who happens to be Asian, or Malcolm who happens to be ____________(fill in the blank)

This phrase however, contextualized within the writing of Philip K Dick and Fredrick Jameson is worth exploring and speaks to a literary tradition which neither acknowledge, purposefully or not.

Philip K Dick states that Stuart is the central narrative that ties all of the others together and Jameson asserts that Stuart initiates and enables the narratives to construct and carry out a rather dense interplay that I DO understand, thank goodness for diagrams, but think may be a bit over thought.

Jameson states: "that the the initial point of view figure(Stuart)happens to be black has the function of staging the appearance of the first really unusual character.

Dick states: My favorite character in the novel is.....Stuart Mc Conchie...who happens to be black... it was daring to have a major character be a black man.

I choose to look at Stuart as an object of "American Africanism" a terms coined by Toni Morrison in her book Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination. He is so, because he represents in Morrison's words paraphrased:
A trope which little restraint has been attached to that is connected to the denotative and connotative blackness that African people have come to symbolize. A trope that imbues a non-white character with the ability to signify the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, and misreadings that accompany Eurocentric learning about marginalized peoples.
Essentially, Stuart is a part of the disabling virus within literary discourse, that allows a way of talking about and a way of policing matters of class, sexual license, and repression, formations and exercises of power, and meditations on ethics and accountability. The use of Stuart, enables the possibility of contemplating chaos and civilization, desire and fear, which leaves him to function as a mere mechanism for testing the problems and blessings of freedom (6-7)

And is he not all of this?
He seems the epicenter of the book, so says Dick. He is the centrifugal force that mediates the fracture(s) of society, by witnessing and partaking in the chaotic, and making possible the restructuring of society even on the microcosmic scale.

And if we look to Stuart as Jameson does, we can position him as enabling Dick to talk of a sexually independent (hedonistic?) woman, the hierarchy of social relations displayed in the "characterological system", and a meditation on value(s).

A truly daring move would've been to make Stuart the psychiatrist or Walt Dangerfield. A truly daring move would've been positioning him at the head of the West Marin community.

While Dick believes he is being progressive by using Stuart in such a way, he fails to acknowledge that he in fact is in-step with a long literary tradition of American Africanism, however intentional or not.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coming together

I've always found solace in the "beat" writers. And I think Gary Snyder is a good place to start with regards to tying the readings for this week together.
And so to begin with Snyder:

"We can enjoy our humanity with its flashy brains and sexual buzz, its social cravings and stubborn tantrums, and take ourselves as no more and no less than another being in the big Watershed. We can accept each other all as barefoot equals sleeping on the same ground. We can give up hoping to be eternal and quit fighting dirt..." (84)

Forrestor and Huxley's societies say: no,no we can't.

While their pro/an tagonists say "yes" in different degrees: Kuno who isn't quite sure about acceptance and others...just difference..and space within which "things" (whatever they are) are possible. And Helmholtz and John the savage who say yes to parts but not to the whole of the statement. The Savage - yes to "taking ourselves as no more and no less than another being.. and accept[ing] each other all as barefoot individuals sleeping on the same ground"..etc. Helmholtz as yes to "flashy brains and sexual buzz, it's social cravings and stubborn tantrums.."

And then on to the second part

"...The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get home."

Huxley via Bernard seems to agree with the "tell a good story when we get home" bit but ignores the learning and the necessary nods that are part of the experience.

Forrestor via Kuno seems to agree with the learning and the nods, the fording of streams and the crossing of ridges, and in telling a good story; however, unfinished it is.
But then there is Kuno's mother and the greater part of Forrestor's society who says no to all "direct experience"

And in Huxley, Lenina with her soma addiction to soften the blow of anything not in agreement with her ordered state of reality especially so when in touch with "the wild" on her excursion to Malpais and interactions with the savage states quite explicitly "no" to Snyder's new "cultural ethic of the wild" (82) And we mustn't forget Mond - internally conflicted - Mond who though acknowledging the benefits highlighted in Snyder's quote finds his freedom as being more important than telling a true...self involved vs divorced story. (I'm thinking the linda stary here)

And throughout all of the above Lefebrvre's idea echos incessantly within the outcasts Kuno and John with regards to how they see the society which has or seeks to exclude or incorporate them into the system:
"The concepts of desire and pleasure were not to be conceived as categories of the impossible, a “bad” utopia, but were an expression of a wider recognition among intellectuals, workers, students and other elements of the underlying population that the emptiness of lived experience demanded a revolutionary transformation of everyday life as the condition of the possibility for the achievement of freedom which remains the highest aspiration of social being."(143)

Monday, January 19, 2009


First I must get out of the way faulty assertions presented in the article “Ecofeminist Pragmatism…”
1) “…there is an essential absence of the division between public and private”(29)
Not true “these people had…the most delicate sense of personal privacy”
2) “To purposefully take a human life is unimaginable to herlanders”
Not true “She wanted to kill him – actually” (132)

Random thought that I found interesting

Motherhood desire is seen as productive
Male desire is seen as counter-productive even destructive
IE Terry’s “appetite” that gets him into trouble / women’s wishing into existence new life

Gilman utopia or segue?
Gilman implies that for a true utopia to exist it must be bi-sexual. She exalts the men in that they were greatly sought after as a source of knowledge and a perceived way to once again enact the original natural state of humanity that existed before the beginning of motherhood. In doing this, Gilman insinuates that motherhood is indeed an unnatural but required state (interim?) needed to set back in place an environment that is “balanced” hence the reference to a bi-sexual state.
This idea of Herland not necessarily being a utopia but a segue is one that is not taken into account in the work by Deegan who wished to place her with ecofeminist criticism. What Deegan did was to focus on the current state, within Herland/Ourland, without looking forward or beyond. In doing this, Deegan does not play up the emphasis of “process and relations”(34) evident within Gilman’s text and instead looks at the story and its sequel as an end product incapable of being extended beyond those points in time, that are explicitly, as Arnold would put it, “mapped out.”
And this brings to question the idea of utopia. Must it be seen as a type of end product in that it has attained a transcendent state? Or can it be thought of as something ever changing? For if it is a result of cognitive mapping, as Arnold / Jameson put forth given its subjective properties could it be anything but in constant flux? The idea of utopia and perma-flux so closely seated to one another seems to almost upend the idea of Utopia all together. Isn’t utopia supposed to support a state of predictability and pleasant monotony to an extent?
On the tail end of these types of questions I will add the brief inquiry as to whether Gilman can be read as ecocriticism at all?
Certainly her story involves exploration of “the relationship of the human and the non human” and entails a questioning of the term “human” itself in that she explores the construction of what it means to be more than a gender but a “human being” however superficially executed (Garrard 4).
And so it seems fitting for this label to be applied; however, I have to circle back round to the issue of timing as ecocriticism seems to be involved in what is and what was but not so much with the what will be but isn’t as of yet quality that plays an influential role in Gilman’s text.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Utopia as... and then expectations etc

Utopia as a social reality to individual perception
Utopia as an imaginary enclave within a real social space..a result of social and spacial differentiation (eco issues / history issues)
Utopia as an attempt to alleviate and eliminate sources of exploitation and suffering
Utopia as a rhetorical response to a social situation (a motivated creation)
Utopias are not necessarily “rose gardens”
Utopia as priviledging the communal over the I (collective narcissism)
Utopia and intertextuality
Utopia as structurally ambiguous
Socialism / Communism Utopian imperialism

Utopia’s privileging of reason/ good will / free flow of information/ harmony(balance), satisfaction/freedom, communal interest, homogeny (red alert!)

Utopia as anti-nature – the stunting of man’s innate desire to grow
Utopia as static
Utopia as technology /evolution (of man’s and the environment’s “nature”)

Utopia as systemic (hence its relation to marginalized (social) discourses)
What does it mean to rail against the “system”? Communal railing
Utopia as counter hegemonic.
Utopia – emphasis on common origin (ontology/epistemology/first principles)
Utopia as a normative (rule bound) nature of existence in actio

Just b/c the norms /rules/conventions are not stated explicitly does not imply a created reality is not still in place hence, there is NEVER an absence of paradigms within utopia / distopia / anti-topia discourse (50)
Utopia as critical engagement – re-evaluation

Utopia as an social interruption
Utopia as joint relationship b/n writer and reader both involved with the creative process

“utopia in other words, informs…the “quest for counter-space” that enables humanity to change ‘life itself’” (65)

Utopia as “counter public sphere”

Utopia as postmodernism - as a reaction against modernism's heirarchies of social arrangements, including: identity/history and culture.

I expect that we will not be completely consumed, in our studying of utopias/dystopias/anti-topias, by the "always already" arguments.

What'd I'd like get out of the class:

I'd like to explore the arrangement within public space as topias to see where that road lands me.

In addition, I see myself potentially exploring the idea of topias present within the sci-fi manga movies Appleseed and Appleseed Ex Machina by Shinji Aramaki.

Finally, I want to gear what I learn in this class toward supplementing my interest in the issue of system generated knowledge of/about "truth"...(i'm thinking coherence theory here as presented by Alcoff in her text - real versions of the coherence theory )