Today was supposed to be a day where you asked questions in our face-to-face class, and, we would reference the theorists more germane to your topics as they came up. I would like to follow that format if possible. But first, Chris will lead us on Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation”
Judith Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”
Some Definitions for Butler’s Reading
- Phenomenon: A thing which appears, or which is perceived or observed; a particular (kind of) fact, occurrence, or change as perceived through the senses or known intellectually; esp. a fact or occurrence, the cause or explanation of which is in question.
- Phenomenology: a. Philos. The metaphysical study or theory of phenomena in general (as distinct from that of being).
b. gen. The division of any science which is concerned with the description and classification of its phenomena, rather than causal or theoretical explanation.
- Illocution: An act such as ordering, warning, undertaking, performed in saying something.
- Epiphenomena: a. Something that appears in addition; a secondary symptom. Also transf.
b. spec. in Psychol. Applied to consciousness regarded as a by-product of the material activities of the brain and nerve-system.
- Episteme: Scientific knowledge, a system of understanding; spec. Foucault’s term for the body of ideas which shape the perception of knowledge at a particular period.
Quotations to Ponder from Butler
Remember, our conversations aren’t done to find the last word. Discussions of gender and media happened before this class and will happen long after this class. We’re really just trying to get a handle on our moment in time (think “episteme” from above). One could immediately come out swinging and claim Butler is misguided and obtuse, but the better approach is to try to understand why she concludes the way she does. This is a tough read, so let’s focus on some key places in the text:
- Thesis…perhaps…p. 521: “the acts by which gender is constituted bear similarities to performative acts within theatrical contexts”
- p. 519: “gender…is an identity constituted in time–an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts”
- “…bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self”
- p. 520: “the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between…a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style”
- p. 520: “Feminist theory has often been critical of naturalistic explanations of sex and sexuality that assume that the meaning of women’s social existence can be derived from some fact of their physiology”
- p. 521: “the body is a historical situation,…a manner of doing dramatizing, and reproducing a historical situation”
- p. 522: “those who fail to do their gender right are regularly punished”
- How so? Think of examples where women or men appear to perform roles opposite of the gender. Can you think of a situation where one gender is not punished for performing the opposite gender’s prescribed role?
- pp. 522-523: “The personal is thus political inasmuch as it is conditioned by shared social structures, but the personal has also been immunized against political challenge to the extent that public/private distinctions endure”
- In the context of this class, consider our discussions on the INDIVIDUAL and how our culture promotes an ideology of individualism.
- Our culture wants to believe that there’s a private self, in a vacuum, that is simply personal preference.
- Break with capital-F Feminism…perhaps…p. 523: “one ought to consider the futility of a political program which seeks radically to transform the social situation of women without first determining whether the category of woman is socially constructed in such a way that to be a woman is, by definition, to be in an oppressed situation.”
- Uh-oh…what is she suggesting? Think about our discussions of feminism not being monolithic.
- What’s to gain from holding onto the distinction of the binary categories of men and women?
- p. 524: “one way in which this system of compulsory heterosexuality is reproduced and concealed is through the cultivation of bodies into discrete sexes with ‘natural’ appearances and ‘natural’ heterosexual dispositions”
Fredric Jameson’s “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (1984; reprinted 1990)
I have a feeling this reading was much easier to read than previous authors. Some of his references might be obscure to us, but he’s writing fairly clearly. That’s a plus, right?
As usual, we have to find a way into the reading, one of several possible ways in. I like to think of Jameson in context of the rise of postmodern(ist) scholarship and, of course, his analysis of artchitecture. Before we get into those, though, we ought to consider Jameson’s caution about theorizing Postmodernism itself. He warns that it difficult:
- “Postmodernism theory seems indeed to be a ceaseless process of internal rollover in which the position of the observer is turned inside out and the tabulation recontinued on some larger scale” (p. 64).
- when defining ideology’s function…
“the production of functioning and living ideologies, is distinct in different historical situations…[and] there may be historical situations in which it is not possible at all–and this would seem to be our situation in the current crisis” (p. 53).
Although Jameson isn’t as well known in popular circles, he does sort of figure into the “Culture Wars” of the 1990s. Postmodern theory and theorizing gave rise to new kinds of scholarship that critiqued the hegemonic ideology of American society (and Western). Also, it (usually) embraced be the Left, and, therefore, anathema to the Right. However, the postmodern condition isn’t a movement that you can be on or off–you’re situated in it.
Postmodern theory is beneficial for all kinds of study inside the academy, but here’s my reasons for English Studies:
- Literature: Jameson brings up interpretations of literature in his chapter, but Postmodernism is crucial for serious literature students. Unless I missed something in the last few years, Postmodernism is the dominant analytical framework for literature over the last 20 years.
- Rhetoric/Composition: Because we think about student identity as a culmination of ones experiences (even if some of us think they’re totally socially constructed), PoMo theory allows us to consider the multiple positions from which people argue, write, consider, and participate in democracy.
- Technical Communication: Well, as a member of a postindustrial, global economy, you need to understand how hierarchies lend themselves to technological production and, in turn, how humans interact with technology. Without that insight, you could edit a document, but you can’t re-vision one.
This is a great subject for us. I have a video for us and some Vegas pictures. Maybe we ought to back up a second to Eco’s discussion of hyperreality. Jameson mentions that architecture was important for his theories on postmodernism:
“It is in the realm of architecture, however, that modifications in aesthetic production are most dramatically visible, and that their theoretical problems have been most centrally raised and articulated; it was indeed from architectural debates that my own conception of postmodernism…initially began to emerge” (p. 2).
- The museum guard and tourists (pp. 32-33)
- The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles: “aspires to being a total space, a complete world, a kind of miniature city; to this new total space, meanwhile, corresponds a new collective practice, a new mode in which individuals move and congregate, something like the practice of a new historically original kind of hypercrowd.” (pp. 38-45)
- p. 63: “Postmodern buildings, on the contrary, celebrate their insertion into the heterogeneous fabric of the commercial strip and the motel and fast-food landscape of the postsuperhighway American city.”
Other Places to Focus on with Jameson
As with all our other readings, we could go into much more detail, so we’ll need to realize we won’t cover everything. Below are some quotations to help us choose.
- p. 6: “If we do not achieve some general sense of a cultural dominant, then we fall back into a view of present history as sheer heterogeneity, random difference, a coexistence of a host of distinct forces whose effectivity is undecidable.”
- p. 35: Defining what we’re about: “The other of our society is in that sense no longer Nature at all, as it was in precapitalist societies, but something else which we must now identify.”
- What is the new other?
- “Technology may well serve as adequate shorthand to designate that enormous properly human and anti-natural power of dead human labor stored up in our machinery.”
- What about capital?
- From Mandel’s “three fundamental moments in capitalism”:
“These are market capitalism, the monopoly stage or the stage of imperialism, and our own, wrongly called postindustrial, but what might better be termed multinational, capital.”
- From Mandel’s “three fundamental moments in capitalism”:
- What is the new other?
- p. 48: “No theory to define “the cultural act outside the massive Being of capital….distance in general (including ‘critical distance’ in particular) has very precisely been abolished in the new space of postmodernism.”
- p. 62: “The point is that we are within the culture of postmodernism to the point where its facile repudiation is as impossible as any equally facile celebration of it is complacent and corrupt.”
- p. 54: “The new political art…will have to hold to the truth of postmodernism, that is to say, to its fundamental object–the world space of multinational capital.”
- p. 54: “The political form of postmodernism, if there ever is any, will have as its vocation the invention and projection of a global cognitive mapping, on as well as a spatial scale.”
Roland Barthes’s Mythologies (1954)
A few terms to define from the preface:
- bourgeois: characteristic of the middle class.
- petit-bourgeois: belonging to the lower middle class.
- semioclasm: the destruction of signs (that, specifically, aren’t useful).
Key quotations from the preface:
- p. 9: First theoretical framework is “an ideological critique bearing on the language of so-called mass-culture.”
Second theoretical framework is “a first attempt to analyse semiologically the mechanics of this language.”
- p. 11: Barthes’s motivation for Mythologies is “a feeling of impatience at the sight of the ‘naturalness’ with which newspapers, art and common sense constantly dress up reality which…is undoubtedly determined by history.”
- p. 11: “myth is a language”
- p. 12: a paraphrase of a paraphrase: things repeated are culturally significant.
- p. 12: “What I claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time, which may well make sarcasm the condition of truth.”
Other areas of the book:
Although we can’t get through everything tonight, we should focus on the following places:
- “The Romans in Films,” pp. 26-28
- “Operation Margarine,” 41-42.
- p. 42: “A little ‘confessed’ evil saves one from acknowledging a lot of hidden evil.”
- p. 42: What does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply?”
- “Of Novels and Children” (scroll down a bit)
- Of course, times have changed, which is why during the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton avoided being associated with children…
- “Toys,” pp. 53-55
- p. 54: “the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never creator.”
- p. 54: “French toys are usually based on imitation, they are meant to produce children who are users, not creators.”
- “The Nautilus and the Drunken Boat,” pp. 65-67
- p. 65: “Imagination about travel corresponds in Verne to an exploration of closure…to enclose oneself and to settle, such is the existential dream of childhood and of Verne.”
- p. 67: “Rimbaud’s Drunken Boat, the boat…can make man proceed from a psycho-analysis of the cave to a genuine poetics of exploration.”
- And to what (to whom) might the above refer?
- “Neither-Nor Criticism,” pp. 81-83
- p. 81: “Culture is a noble, universal thing, placed outside social choices: culture has no weight.”
“Ideologies…are partisan inventions: so, onto the scales, and out with them!”
- p. 82: “two common expedients of bourgeois mythology”–
1) “a certain idea of freedom, conceived as ‘the refusal of a priori judgments‘.”
2) pp. 82-83: “the euphoric reference to the ‘style’ of the writer as to an eternal value of Literature.”
- p. 83: Literature–“It is no longer its ornaments that it is defending, but its skin.”
- “The New Citroen,” pp. 88-90
- “Plastic,” pp. 97-99
Jodi Dean’s “Enjoying Neoliberalism” (2009)
I actually have a page from another class devoted to Jodi Dean, so let’s just go there.
Slavoj Žižek’s “The Totalitarian Invitation to Enjoyment” (1991)
This requires quite a bit of psychoanalysis, so, in an effort to stay as close to rhetoric as possible, I’m going to just discuss this if questions come up.
Three Important Terms to Consider
- Id: the unconscious, unorganized part of one’s personality; often accessible through dreams.
- Ego: the conscious part of one’s personality. From Freud: “The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions” (p. 15).
- “Thus in its relation to the id [the ego] is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces….Often a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id’s will into action as if it were its own.” (p. 15)
- Compare to Plato’s metaphor of the chariot…
- Super-ego: the mainly conscious conscience of one’s personality that embodies ideals, goals, and confidence; it also prohibits drives, fantasies, feelings, and actions; is an internalization of culture and cultural norms.
From Freud, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id. Trans. James Strachey. New York: Norton, 1962 (original work published 1923).
The above three Freudian terms have a rather complex relationship to one another and their supposed development is also quite difficult to describe. However, for our purposes, what do the three suggest about a person’s relationship to others? What is the cultural significance of these personality components? What do they have to offer an analysis on rhetoric?
Key places in the aritcle:
- p. 73: “We represent for ourselves an object, and the pleasure or displeasure attached to its representation sets off our activity.”
- p. 75: “Kantian ethics…our activity can be considered truly moral only insofar as it is motivated by the form alone, to the exclusion of every pathological impetus, however noble it may be (compassion, etc.).”
- “The stain of enjoyment that pertains to the Kantian categorical imperative is not difficult to discern: its very rigorist formalism assumes the tone of cruel, obscene neutrality.”
- Think obsession with duty.
- Lacan claims, “it is the subject who determines himself as object, in his encounter with the division of subjectivity,” and that subject assuming the role of the object is precisely what sustains the reality of the situation of what is called the sado masochistic drive” (p. 185).
- p. 83: “enjoyment is the ‘surplus’ that comes from our knowledge that our pleasure involves the thrill of entering a forbidden domain–that is to say, that our pleasure involves a certain displeasure.
- p. 85: “This is the way superego is at work in the very heart of the autonomous, free subject: the external social law is sustained by compulsion, whereas the superego shares with freedom its non-intrusive character: in itself, it is completely powerless, it is activated only insofar as the subject addresses it.”
- p. 86: rationalization
- p. 87: “the core of so-called doublethink: we must consciously manipulate the whole time, change the past, fabricate ‘objective reality,’ at the same time sincerely believing in the results of the manipulation….the knowledge that we ‘deceive’ in no way prevents us from believing in the results of the deception.“
- p. 93: “Authority bases its charismatic power on symbolic ritual, on the form of the Institution as such….it is Law itself which speaks through him.”
Martin Heidegger “The Question Concerning Technology” (1954)
There’s a reason this makes next to no sense (in the context of this class), so I’ll explain…
Is he for real? Did he really lead us through a grueling intellectual exercise just to tell us the the essence of technology is ambiguous?!? He started out so clear. What happened? Also, why is he so obsessed with “correct” meanings of words?
We could spend lots of time nailing down the definitions of enframing, causes, revealing, challenging, and bringing forth, but, in the interest of time, we should focus on what allows us to talk about rhetoric. I think the following terms are important to consider:
- techne: method, ways of producing things; the word “technology” comes from it
- check out Heidegger’s definition on p. 18: “bring[ing] forth truth into the spledor of radiant appearing”
- episteme: knowledge or science; you can read “epistemology” in it
- instrumentalism: the belief that tools (or sciences) are useful in carrying out (or explaining) goals (or ideas)
- eidos: 1) the distinctive expression of the cognitive or intellectual character of a culture or social group.
2) how cultures organize intellectual material to inform their thinking or behavior.
- poieses: the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.
We should use our other texts to help us think about technology and it ambiguous essence. In fact, Derrida’s differance allows us to consider the problem with defining technology’s essence. Because technology is embedded with meaning, it can be read; it’s rhetorical. Charles Bazerman defines “the rhetoric of technology” as:
- “The rhetoric of technology shows how the objects of the built environment become part of our systems of goals, values and meaning, part of our articulated interests, struggles, and activities.”
How can we think about the above quotation in light of Heidegger’s point that modern technology is enmeshed in a system that demands resources “be immediately at hand” (p. 8)? He even tells us that man (and, presumably, woman) is “made subordinate to the orderability of” needed resources (p.8).
More helpful to us would be Herbert Marcuse’s “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology” (1941). He was a Frankfurt School member.
- Let us take a simple example. A man who travels by automobile to a distant place chooses his route from highway maps. Towns, lakes and mountains appear as obstacles to be bypassed. The countryside is shaped and organized by the highway. Numerous signs and posters tell the traveler what to do an think; they even request his attention to the beauties of nature or the hallmarks of history. Others have done the thinking for him, and perhaps for the better. Convenient parking spaces have been constructed where the broadest and most surprising view is open. Giant advertisements tell him when to stop and find the pause that refreshes. And all this is indeed for his benefit, safety and comfort; he receives what he wants. Business, technics, human needs and nature are welded together into one rational and expedient mechanism. He will fare best who follows its directions, subordinating his spontaneity to the anonymous wisdom which ordered everything for him….There is no personal escape from the apparatus which has mechanized and standardized the world. (p. 143)
Above excerpt from Herbert Marcuse’s “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology.” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. Eds. Andrew Arato & Eike Gebhardt. Urizen: 1978.
Next Week’s Reading
Finish up Cy Knloblauch’s book Ch. 6, 7, and “Afterword” (pp. 130-200). Your projects are due next week! Then, on May 4th, we’ll have your presentations on those projects.