More notes on the idea of Marxism–with a nod to neo-marxist:

Althusser believes that capitalism doesn’t solely determine relations. The base and superstructure are engaged in dialectic so that changes in the superstructure can affect the base. For example, changes in the ways we think about marriage can change things at the base, such as sexual relationships, which have changed over time.

Marx (and Engels) invert the Hegelian dialectic—rather than start from abstract ideas (master-slave), Marx starts with material world. The base is the economic base, the modes of production, the relations of production, the forces of production (technology, etc). The superstructure is culture and ideology. The question is: what relationship exist between these two?

Ideology distorts reality, and in a hegemony, ideology operates by way of consent. The distinction in ideology between communist Russia and the U.S.A. is that in Russia people were not free but knew it. In the U.S. people are not free but fail to notice.

The U.S. doesn’t know it isn’t free because, according to Althusser, of ISA-Ideological State Apparatuses that make us think we are free, individual thinkers, when we are not.

Every child goes through a social production, and the ultimate form of production are the conditions for reproduction; that is, social formation that will keep reproducing itself. Soceity reproduces itself through ISA, such as religion, schools, family, legal system—all of culture. All these things that are in place to make you a good, normal, conforming citizen with religion and education as the biggest ones in place to make sure society reproduces itself.

“To be a subject is also to be subjected”

Marx wants to examine this ideology and change it so that the worker is no longer exploited.

Capitalism is built on production, so the people who own the means of production exploit the worker. Perpetually, capitalism builds its wealth on unfair premises: it pays the worker as little as it can get away with—Marx argues this system does not work.

Part of the problem arises out of capitalist practices that determine values in society. For instance:

Use-value: value an object has because of its use—the value an object has that you are willing to put in labor into it to create it.
Vs.
Exchange-value: arbitrary value placed on object (such as gold). A pound of gold against a pound of iron where iron is useful and gold is not, but someone, somehow, put more value on gold. The ruling class determines the value of an object that has nothing to do with its actual use-value.

These values have ramifications for consciousness in dialectical materialism; for example:

A farmer has a rake and a hose an the land to grow crops, harvest, and sell them. Then trackers are invented, which means less work for the farmer, but you need people to make a tractor. Now you have people working in a tractor factory to make money to buy the food that the tractor is used to harvest, instead of just growing the food yourself. Then to make things go faster, one worker tightens three screws on the tractor, and that is all he does. To save money, the factory makes robots to tighten screws, but now you need factories to make robots to make tractors to make the food that you are making robots for in order to make money to buy the food. One idea creates a need for the next idea, but sometimes the ideas contradict.

This line of ideas create alienation; the worker is alienated from the product and from the original goal. In alienation, all relations among people become monetary and cease to be human, rather merely a relation between labor.

Where the farmer would make food and trade it for goods, now someone makes tightens one screw on a robot that makes a tractor to harvest food, and the factory worker has no idea what his finished product looks like or what it is used for.

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Chapter Two: Pathos (Allegories of Emotion):

Terada’s main focus in this chapter is de Man’s reading of other people. This analysis gets meta, very quickly, as it becomes Terada reading de Man’s reading of Rousseau, or other people’s reading of de Man’s reading of Rousseau…

She points out how de Man’s explores texts with real emotions, not fictive ones (such as in fiction novels or plays). For de Man, emotions are illusions that hide behind rhetoric. As Terada explains, “de Man is indeed skeptical about emotions in that he questions our motives for representing them and even having them: we use emotions, he argues, to mitigate epistemological uncertainties” (49). Emotions take the place of thought when we don’t know what to think. This analysis of de Man’s fully acknowledges the power of emotions; he does not doubt emotions. He wants to examine them, so he creates a theory of emotions and tests it against different readings.

Terada wants to use de Man because he is known for a detached prose and for being skeptical of emotions, which makes him a good case study. De Man defines passion as belonging to a system not to a subject; and while emotions are interpretative (are understood in language), they still fail to prove subjectivity.

Terada reads de Man’s idea of passion as being rhetorical as well. By examining representations of passion, we can see how passion regulates analogies. In de Man’s reading of Rousseau, love links inside and outside, where lover’s exchange identities and where love crosses over between two people: “lovers believe that their emotions leads them from outer traits to inner states and back” (50). Love helps us feel what others feel. De Man goes on to suggest that “one’s own emotion comes to be known in the first place only through connection with and confirmation from others” (51), which reminds me of Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters when the protagonist says that you can’t have a breakdown by yourself–that you need an audience to express emotions.

This passage confused me. We can only know emotions through others? Is there no other way to know emotions?

This view of emotions, as Terada points out, leads to the expressive hypothesis–that emotions prove subjectivity because a there needs to be a subject to feel anything and interpret that feeling. A closer analysis reveals how this interpretation actually undermines the expressive hypothesis.

Terada looks at de Man’s ambiguity: he says that emotions arise when we are uncertain so that emotions end uncertainty. Terada goes on to read de Man’s social theory, which arose out of dialogues with Rousseau’s “Profession of Faith.” De Man’s shows how “The sovereignty of Rousseau’s State exemplifies action independent from consciousness, significance, and emotion” (52)–actions without feelings. Since the state is a unified power, it can react, engage in actions, without feeling. Feelings only arise when the “subject” is divided; precisely since the subject is fragmented, divided, lacking, results in emotions arising. Emotions, however, are deceptive. De Man concludes that “one’s own emotion does not really provide access to the feelings of others or reflect the structure of reality, he seems to be saying, but the affective force of emotion understandably persuades us to think so” (55).

Terada explores de Man’s reading of Derrida’s views on emotions because this encounter sparks de Man’s views of emotions. De Man goes back to Rousseau’s reading of “fear” and the giant. Fear comes to point in two directions: first, as the inner state of the frightened person–the “I am afraid;” second, in the outer state–the object of fear “This may be frightening” (57). However, neither of these two have an objective claim, necessarily. Terada posits “As an interpretation of the predicament, “fear” is “in the nature of permanent hypothesis'” (57). The metaphor fails because the tenor (giant-the thing being spoken of) is ontological, while the vehicle fear (the thing) is hypothetical. The emotion itself, however, also is mere interpretation. Furthermore, “fear’s figurative status” fails to lesson it. The emotion of fear exist wether or not the object (giant) is real.

Terada then looks at de Man’s reading of Narcisse . Some points to take away:

The I’s of cogito (and Lacan already hints at this) are both virtual. Everything is simulacra, and de Man reads this story as falling in love with representation, not with self. We can never know ourselves nor a person because we are stuck in representation: the ‘I’ that can be known is virtual. This analysis explains how de Man sees emotions as arises out of uncertainty. In this story, the emotion (love) ends interpretation by positing an object (the portrait that Valerie falls in love with), thus ending the metaphor. Terada reads de Man’s reading of love here against his earlier readings of fear: “Earlier de Man contrast fear to metaphor [the metaphor turns to literalization where the giant becomes ontological and the emotion, fear, remains hypothetical]; he now likens love to metaphor….the purpose of emotions shifts…from registering the vacillation between possible interpretations to ending it” (61). I am oly hypothetically afraid of the “giannt”– depending on the giant, my interpretation shifts, but in this example with the portrait, the portrait is the thing, interpretation ends.

Emotions hypothesize confusion–fear of giant is a hypothesis of the other; and resolves confusion–when I become angry, I assign an object to my confusion, resolving what I am angry about.

De Man reads Schiller’s sublime as a way to help us cope; the sublime helps us confront something terrible without actually confronting it. As de Man puts it, we are better off imagining the boat being tossed around in the ocean than actually being on the boat. The sublime helps us cope with danger when we can experience it through a theatrical presentation. The sublime, like anxiety, has the power to motivate us to action or to paralyze us with fear.

The allegories of emotion present the sign, itself as the cause (thing, itself) of emotions. Concepts and figure of speeches undermine themselves. De Man uses these ideas of the undermining of allegory to posit his theory of emotion–Terada explores de Man’s readings of different texts.

An interesting reading Terada teases out his de Man’s reading of Rousseau’s reading of judgment. Morals are built on comparative judgments, which circle back on themselves. Feelings lead to judgments that we compare because we are unsure about which judgments are right or wrong, so we fall back on feeling– what feels right or wrong, which depends on judgments. De Man then deconstructs Rousseau’s interpretation of the State and the State’s “happiness,” which Terada uses to explain her thinking on emotions: “individuals and states must be seen as feeling nonsubjects, but the executive power of the State must be seen as a nonfeeling subjects” (77-78). Rousseau’s social contract requires the state and individuals to verbalize their relationship, which the state does through generalizations, and generalization have a different “figural structure” than the metaphorical structures of emotions. The state is “happy” insofar as it knows itself and what’s outside it. The state is defined in sovereignty, but nonsubjects have no ground to stand on, which is where emotions arise from.

The state is not conscious enough to feel. For de Man, a “real” subject lacks the centrality of states; that is, “Far from containing emotions…or possessing a consciousness capable of directing feelings, a ‘truly in-dividual, un0divided’ being would lack the self-differentiality that makes experience possible at all” (81).

And I can’t go on much longer from here, as none of this barely makes sense to me. Next she looks at Gasché’s reading of Kant to make her point about the non-subject.

Looking at Kant’s theory of lacking emotion, Terada points out how not having emotions is an emotions.

I wonder, though, is it a “lack of feeling”– the Modest Mouse lyric example of “I don’t feel anything and it feels great”? Or is it rather that feeling overwhelms the senses and so confuses the subject? Is apatheia a result of emotions having to be understood in words, and words failing to capture emotions that it “feels” like we don’t have any emotions?

Terada connects de Man’s theory of apatheia here with Heidegger’s theory of moods. We are never not in a mood, Heidegger would say. De Man points out how complicated this gets when he evokes Yeats’s idea of how to separate the dancer from the dance: how do we separate the emotion from the subject?

I think both Heidegger and Lacan can deter this concern. As Terada points out, emotions exist precisely because there is no subject–because the subject is divided, fragmented, and in language, emotions arise as a way to try to make sense of this experience of non-subjectivity.

But that is all my brain can process now…

I’m getting my ass kicked. The book about emotions I am reading is kicking my ass. And I also have a class about teaching literature that is kicking my ass. Sure, I could be doing better, but I’m having a hard time concentrating. Anyway, the book I am reading now needs to be broken down, so here goes:

Rei Terada- Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the “Death of the Subject”

Introduction:

Beginning with Jameson’s Postmodernism, Terada illustrates how Jameson, and most people in postmodern society, fails to see emotion; as Jameson states, postmodernism begins the “waning of affect.” In postmodernism, the subject loses its center: there is no subject to have a strong emotion. Terada quotes Manfred frank, who states, “A dead subject emits no more cries of pain.”
(pages 1-2).

However, Terada’s thesis contradicts these views of lost emotions with the death of the subject in postmodernism, stating “it is time to consider the possibility that poststructuralism is directly concerned with emotion. In order for this to be so, emotions would have to be nonsubjective. I will argue that these statements do describe the case. Poststructuralist thought about emotions is hidden in plain sight” (3), and goes on to argue that if there were subjects, emotions would not exist (4).

Terada outlines her terms. Emotion means a psychological, minimally interpretive experience whose physiological aspect is affect—affect: verb (used with object)
1. to act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.
2. to impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply.
3. (of pain, disease, etc.) to attack or lay hold of. (Dictionary.com, “affect”)

Feeling (a capacious term) connotes both psychological sensation (affect) and psychological states (emotions).

Passion reflects the difficulty of labeling emotions as passive or active.

Terada focuses on emotion, “constructed in a psychological and unremarkable way” (5). She does not argue against a classic way of seeing emotions, nor does she argue for a fully-present subjectivity, rather the classical way of handling emotion deconstructs the idea of subjectivity. Her “expressive hypothesis” states that emotion requiring a subject creates the illusion of subjectivity “rather than show evidence of it” (11).

That is all I can make of this now… I continue reading…

This book kicked my ass, yet I found it easier to read than most “theory” books. Nietzsche breaks up the book into three essays all concerned with where we get morals, why we have morals, and our perspectives on morals: the first essay examines “good” and “evil” and “bad,” and the morality of Masters and Slaves. Master morality developed through the strong, healthy, and free and had the power to call the weak, unhealthy and sick, which in turn led to the weak calling the masters evil. This section subtly examines the power of language and how the powerful control language. The powerful had the power to call themselves strong and use positive words and the weak did not, until they had enough power in numbers to call the strong evil compared to themselves, who were good.

The second essay deals with the origin of guilt and punishment, which were not based on moral transgression but on monetary exchange. If someone owed me money, I was allowed to get my payment by punishing that person. That person had no guilt, and I had no remorse about it; the punishment happened and we went our separate ways. However, when slave morality began to take hold, morality was added and guilt became what we know it as now, rather than simply meaning one was in debt. Slave morality developed these concepts– in order to justify the meaninglessness of life, slave morality invents God and has us all believe we are sinners in order to justify our suffering. With the rise of the state, Justice begins to punish the one in debt, removing the debtor. The exchange is no longer an impersonal: you owe me so I will get my payment by punishing you, now the state comes in and coldly decides how the “sinner” or “criminal” should repay. We also need to keep in mind that these concepts rise when we cease nomadic wondering and form communities. Now the transgressor sins against an individual and an entire community.

The third essay, “What is the meaning of ascetic ideals?” confronts asceticism, the idea that we should happily face punishment for enlightenment and forgiveness, and as Nietzsche views, the expression of a weak, sick will. Sick wills are unable to cope with the suffering that happens in life– a suffering that occurs because man goes against his base, animal nature in order to fit into society so that where once the struggle was with the outside world, now man struggles with himself–so they create meaning for suffering: religion, work, redemption. I’m too lazy to get into this now, so here is what sparknotes says, “Unable to cope with its struggle against itself, the sick will sees its animal instincts, its earthly nature, as vile, sinful, and horrible. Unable to free itself from these instincts, it attempts to subdue and tame itself as much as possible. Nietzsche concludes that ‘man would rather will nothingness than not will.'”

I have recently been completely fascinated by Roland Barthes. I was reading his biography during winter break before I had my gallbladder removed and spent the next few weeks in pain and trying to figure out what to eat. Though I think a hospital is a nice introduction to Barthes and Mythologies. Why do we trust a doctor in scrubs and a white lab coat? Barthes and Saussure have the answer. It is this relevancy, as well as Barthes being one of the first thinkers to make the leap from structuralism to poststructuralism (as is better illustrated, I believe in “Death of the Author” which we will read later), that fascinates me so much.

In this selection, Barthes takes political photography for his analysis. He outlines the manner in which photography captures a signification; it is through photographs that a candidate can, not show his audience his plans for office, but show the audience who he is,

“What is transmitted through the photograph of the candidate are not his plans, but his deep motives[…] all this style of life of which he is at once the product, the example and the bait” (1320).

Barthes is explaining how photography manipulates the sign system that Saussure outlines. Saussure points out how signifiers (the sound image, specifically, let’s say– the letters) are arbitrarily assigned to signifieds (the actual concept out in the world). The way that we know what a signifier means is only through society. There is no inherent value, there is nothing concrete that says the letters c.a.t. have any actual relation to the furry little domesticated animal out in the world, other than society’s agreement that it does; hence, “The relation between the signifier and the signified is “arbitrary,” not “motivated” (by natural resemblance)” then later, “the sign is a convention that has to be learned and is not subject to individual will.”

What is wonderful about Barthes is the way he explores these concepts and takes them further. Barthes, more than being a semiologist that makes the move to postmodernism, is an acute analyzer of society. In Barthes there is the beginning of the move from hermeneutics (what does something mean) to semiology (how does something mean).

The way things mean has to do with the cultural context, and photography has the ability to capture cultures attitudes (this still goes on in political campaigns today; all we have to do is remember how much press Obama got for not wearing his flag pin). Photography offers not just the cultural context that the candidate is trying to capture, photography offers this context in a “pure” way, “a photograph is a mirror, what we are asked to read is the familiar, the known; it offers to the voter his own likeness, but clarified, exalted, superbly elevated into a type” (1320). The photograph offers up a mirror of ourselves as we wish to be, and shows us the candidate to us as ourselves–how many times do we hear during an election, “He is the sort of person you can sit and have a beer with” ?

Furthermore, there is an underlying Marxist critique going on in this analysis. The audience exposed to these pictures (we can extend this today to FoxNews) relate to them in some way: “Photography constitutes here a veritable blackmail by means of moral values,” so society votes for posters that promise change, but don’t really know what the change is, and hence Marx’s definition of ideology, “They do not know, but they are doing it.” Photography also becomes a fetish object in that it holds a power that we assign it “magically.” This is why Barthes is so great; because we should all be aware of the ideology around us everyday, and the best way to be aware of it is to realize how it means by way of Barthes’s analysis. By realizing that all these things we take as natural are really just mythologies.

This seems like some dated material: “So it is no surprise that colleges and universities, instead of asking faculty members to correlate what we teach and how we teach it, assume instead that each of us will figure such things out on our own.” The school I went to before has what is called a “FIG” program, and while the acronym escapes me now, the point was to get students with a common major and group them together. The idea was that if these students took the same classes together, they would be more apt to learn collectively; it also meant that professors would engage one another and try to come up with topics that would intersect showing students how all these skills, from writing to science to history and math, all related in “the real world.”

This way if the fig class was learning about the 1950’s then in my composition class I would have all the students pick ads from the 50’s to analyze, for example.

While I agree with much of what Graff is saying and while I tentatively agree with assessment, there are some problems I am having with this article; For instance, Graff says:

“In college the contradictory messages intensify with a vengeance, as students go from one teacher who insists that good reading means inferring the author’s intention to another who dismisses authorial intentions as unknowable and irrelevant; or from one teacher who believes that textual interpretations can be objectively correct or incorrect to another who smiles or rolls his or her eyes at the naïveté of such objectivism; or from one teacher who expects undergraduates to employ a rigorous analytical methodology and terminology more or less like the teacher’s own to another who thinks it sufficient if students learn to appreciate a good read in whatever relaxed way is comfortable to them.”

At what point is the student responsible for figuring this out? If this is how universities have taught, and it is this method that has led to the thinkers we have now, then is it wrong to say something IS working here?

” Students thus learn to be relativists at ten o’clock and universalists after lunch. A University of Chicago student summed it up succinctly, if crudely, when asked how he coped with the challenges of the humanities and sciences: “In humanities I B.S. In science I regurgitate.” Professors often complain about the cynicism of this student shape shifting, but such cynicism is an understandable reaction to our curricular mixed messages.” Isn’t this the point? Is a college education not the time to be immersed in a multitude of differing opinions and thoughts? Isn’t critical thinking the ability to figure this out? Studying philosophy as an undergrad, I always understood that what was thought before changes, but if I am taking a class on Eastern philosophy, then I have to understand that Buddhist believe in reincarnation, no matter if the Existentials I learned about the semester before believe in an after life or not. College is the time to realize that there are many answers to questions and many different ways to approach a problem, and college is the time to figure out which way suites you best.

Rather than “desperate rationalization” as Gaff puts it, look at what that fragmented curriculum got him: He was the president of the MLA. I feel that the following paragraphs about the high achievers seeing through the disparate courses and opinions and succeeding undermine Graff’s arguments about connecting courses. For all the reasons that Graff, himself, mentions. This is what “critical thinking” is– this is what I try to teach students about genres; this is what I teach students about reading literature (that there are all these different ways to do it and that there are all these meanings an that none are more right than the other) because this is the kind of bureaucrat b.s they are going to have to decipher when they get out into the real world. The students who don’t get this will be the mediocre employees of tomorrow, but why do we think that all our students have to leave the university as rocket scientist, doctors, lawyers, or English professors? They just need to be able to function in society and hopefully recognize bad political rhetoric and not vote for candidates with empty messages.

I am NOT saying that I disagree with what Gaff is saying and with how he wants to change universities. I completely agree with professors sharing what they are doing and coming up with ways to integrate different subjects and show the connections between disciplines; I just disagree with his reasoning as to why it should be done. I am also continually bothered with the humanities having to justify itself in this way. Why is it that the humanities has to tell society that it is useful because ‘look-at-all-these-ways-the-humanaties-connects-to-other-subject’? I have never used what I learned in pre-calculus or high school chemistry or middle school dodge ball in “the real world”- but I understand these subjects were important for getting me to think in different ways. Yet (outside of dodgeball) no one questions the validity of a business major learning the periodic table. I also worry that assesment might pressure the teacher too much and not put enough of the power in students’ hands. How can we teach students to take responsibility for their education and then turn around and blame ourselves for not connecting subjects for them?