Happy Objects- Sarah Ahmed:
(Ahmed, Sarah. “Happy Objects.” The Affect Theory Reader. Comp. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. N. pag. Print.)

Locke says that we judge happiness by what causes an increase in pleasure or diminishes pain in us– Something is good or bad according to how it affects us (ahmed 31)

— But heartbreak cannot be judged in such short-term thinking. Heartbreak is an emotion that must be dealt with, and the result can be either -or good or bad. Locke says that a man loves grapes, so his joy of grapes is no more than he likes the taste of them. But heartbreak’s empirical, “object” is more abstract. On one hand, someone rejects you, but there is no “grape” to grasp; furthermore, the feeling lingers as something that must be overcome, or the emotion can take over and destroy you–just ask Othello.
“Happiness might play a crucial role in shaping our near sphere, the world that takes shape around us, as a world of familiar things. Objects that give us pleasure take up residence within our bodily horizon” (32)—also, our likes shape what we are like. We shape our material space by what we like and do not like: we avoid places, things, smells, objects, etc. that we do not like and we try to surround ourselves with the stuff we do like.
Locke says we are made happy by different things that we find delightful. Happiness can be directed towards a thing– an object: a grape, here now. I like grapes so I try to eat them. I am directed towards the things I like and try to distance myself from the things I do not like. In a phenemonological way, happiness is intentional. I am happy towards something. Even in the moments of absence, if the object is not before me, I can be happy if I recall a moment of happiness. (32-33). Objects can affect us in time and space. If I receive something that makes me happy in a certain place, then that place, by association, becomes a happy place. “Or if you are given something by somebody whom you love, then the object itself acquires more affective value’ (33). Happiness has a “here” and “now” or a “when” to it.

“It has always interest me that when we becomes conscious of feeling happy (when the feeling becomes an object of thought), happiness can often recede or become anxious” (33)

— This idea is in Heidegger- When the hammer breaks, we detach from it and turn it into an object of contemplation rather than authentically, just use the hammer. So with feelings–there is a heideggerian idea here– Our truest feelings/emotion are the ones we feel when we don’t notice. –or are we just blank slates? Do we just feel nothing until we realize it? I would still argue no– just as the upset stomach or sleepless night attest to the feeling of anxiety or stress you might not be fully, consciously aware of.
On page 34, she looks at Aristotle who says that happiness is the Chief Good that we aim at. This idea of the end of ends gets at the problem of thinking of happiness as a “thing” that can be achieved. Is it happiness if there is an end? Things, here, are good in that they become the means to happiness. Temporality matters, happiness comes after the object. “As if happiness is what we get if we reach certain points” (34).

Sociable happiness:
Objects get related to happiness, since they are meant to embody good feelings and necessary for a good life. (34)—but the things that bring us happiness require an attainment of taste as well. In saying that a grape is good, you have made a value judgment on that object: “…taste is not simply a matter of chance (whether you or I might happen to like this or that), but is acquired over time” (35). What Pierre Bourdieu illustrated: taste is shaped by what society deems as good or bad so that we desire these good and bad objects. Again, as Aristotle says, good habits are gained through habituation—practice, just like taste is a matter of putting in the work to like the right/good object. At this point, Aristotle makes a distinction about intention “a man is not a good man at all who feels no pleasure in noble action” but what does the “feeling” matter if the feeling fails to be seen. If a man does good, he is good, no? Intention is too tricky. More than habit, habit gives us good taste, makes us desire and strive for the right/good object. “Fake it til you make it”—lie to yourself until you believe. The social of happiness is this idea that society decides what should bring us happy: “groups cohere around a shared orientation toward some things as being good, treating some things and not others as the cause for delight. We are affected by others, such that when we are around others who are happy we catch that happiness. By thinking about affects in this contagious matter, we can look at the inside-outside model of affect—that affects come from inside us to the outside world. But here, affect comes from outside of us and changes us inside.

Think of the “feeling” of a room: the atmosphere of the room gets inside the individual. However, what coms first? The feeling of the room or the emotion? Emotions are “sticky” – anxiety is sticky and picks up what comes near it. If we enter a room with anxiety that anxiety gives us a certain angle.

Going back to Heidegger, who says we are always in moods, so we can’t enter a room in neutral, but rather, we always-already feel something or come into a room with some expectation or hope of how the night will go and how to feel. A room might have a feeling—and surely, I have entered rooms feeling one way but the energy of the room has turned me another way. I might enter anxious because I don’t know anyone, but once I have a drink and talk to some people, the feeling changes. “The moods we arrive with do affect what happens, which is not to say we always keep our moods” (37).
We become alienated when we fail to connect with the affective community, when we fail to derive happiness from an object that is supposed to give happiness. We then offer explanations for why we are not happy: “Such explanation can involve an anxious narrative of self-doubt (why am I not made happy by this, what is wrong with me?) or narrative of rage, where the object that is supposed to make us happy is attributed as the cause of disappointment, which can lead to a rage directed towards those that promised us happiness through the elevation of this or that object as being good” (37). Happiness depends on situation, context, and person. Think of the feminist “killjoy” who calls someone out on being offensive so that the killjoy is said to be unhappy. You are said to be causing an argument because you spoke up. “The feminist is an affect alien: she might even kill joy because she refuses to share an orientation towards a certain thing as being good because she does not find the object that promises happiness to be quiet so promising” (39). The community shares in a happiness affect, in a shared idea of good or happiness that the kill joy refuses to accept. However, to go against the common belief and point out offensiveness rather than go along with it is to be awkward. Depends on who does what to whom; bodies who don’t go along with society are alienated or perceived as aggressive to society.

“If we arrive at objects with an expectation of how we will be affected by them, then this affects how they affect us, even in the moment they fail to live up to our expectations” (42)—Well, ya… Heidegger says that we can never fail to have an expectation of objects. Objects in the world are only comprehensible because those objects are in the world and we have knowledge about them. How can I not have an expectation of how something will affect me? What about heartbreak? Do I have an expectation of how heartbreak will affect me? I know the experience will hurt and that melancholy is always lingering in a relationship. Derrida examines the end of a dialogue and the impending melancholy since you always know one of you will die—but what happens if death is not what ends the dialogue but rather heartbreak/ rejection?

“The promise of happiness thus directs life in some ways rather than others” (41) “We do not just find happy objects anywhere” 41—so people are not “objects” granted, but we DO fall into relationships at random: “anywhere.” The idea of happiness from love out of nowhere is examined in Badiuou (see above). Ahmed states that we direct our life towards the social good, and THAT does not come from nowhere. Expectations come from social arena—Heidegger’s being-in-the-world and following the they-self. The expectations set up by society, having x or y, doing x or y, completing such and such a goal in life promises happiness, happiness follows these things.
Ahmed is interested in the speech act “I just want you to be happy.” (look at Badiou who says the act of saying “I love you” must be continually repeated and lived again and again, continually changing and evolving).

Ahmed wants to examine how the act of saying “whatever makes you happy” releases the child, giving freedom for future decisions, but recall Zizek who looks at this act: how can you be happy without me in your life. The “whatever” of happiness also involves the unsaid idea that “how can you be happy without following what I say will make you happy?” ZIZEK.

Ahmed looks at the queer child: the parent is unhappy about the child being unhappy, as in, I just want you to be happy, but how will you be happy living this queer life? “The queer life is constructed as unhappy, a life without those things that will make us happy (42)… In Ahmed’s examination, the unhappy queer becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Dad imagines the queer child unhappy; the queer child becomes unhappy at the father’s speech act “I just want you to be happy but how can you be happy as a queer? You won’t have all this straight things like a kid and family.” (so queer life is already marked as an unhappy life). The father sees the unhappy queer child as fulfilling what he though all along: tha the child can’t be happy. These examples show how happiness choices get normalized: happiness is marriage and family life. Happy objects are shared, and while you can live a “queer” life “happily” that does not mean you will; furthermore, you will live happily but make others unhappy.

Happiness, Freedom, Injury:
Ahmed wants to explore how the speech act: “I just want you to be happy” protects the family. Using the example of Bend it Like Beckham, Ahmed explores the gap between father and daughter that makes up the conflict of the movie and can be read, simply, as the conflict between generations where the customary, common place conflicts with the alternative: old/father with old values vs. the new values/ daughter who wants alternative outcomes and life. Ahmed explores the climax of the film where the daughter is at the wedding of her sister; she is unhappy and accepts her unhappiness by identifying with the happiness of her parents (and marrying sister). The daughter manages to put her own happiness aside for the happiness of others. (45). ((can this analysis be used to explore heartbreak? Can the hearbroken put his/her own happiness aside for the happiness of the lover who wants to leave to find happiness—probably with someone else? My initial reaction/thought is no: repeating what Zizek says: how can the lover find happiness without me when the lover knows how much I care? How can you manage to be happy without me who loves you so much?))—Ahmed notices how the sister’s outcome—the daughter who finds happiness playing soccer and the daughter who finds “traditional” happiness in marrying and having kids—still manages to show the points of alignment, where happiness is enjoyed together. Both outcomes leave us with happy sisters and happy parents; however, the film places more weight on the alternative happy object than on the traditional one when the protagonist is asked by her sister why she wants to play soccer and the protagonist answers that she wants “more.” A “more” that liners noticeable since she doesn’t say I want something different but rather more. An evaluation is made.
Ahmed relates these ideas to the larger issue of immigrant/diaspora narrative. The immigrant wants the next generation to avoid the pain that the parents feel. The subtle message is that the immigrant needs to play the game [of assimilation], represented by the England’s national sport of soccer. Not playing the game (the father’s first speech about not playing cricket any longer once he was excluded) becomes the narrative of self-exclusion and a refusal to assimilate. Ahmed calls this angry immigrant the melancholic for not letting go of the unhappy object. The melancholic insist on speaking about racism when, as the kill joy, he should get over the racism instead of bring up the sore point (the past): holding on to the past is a way for the melancholic to create obstacles to happiness for himself as well as for his adopted nation.
Ahmed discusses proximity on pg. 49—read this page against Zizek’s views on tolerance and racism today. —end—

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Here are some sloppy ideas on Lacan’s influence on subjectivity. Comps are right around the corner, and I’m starting to freak out a little. Today will be spent on literature and fiction though. I’ll get back to the theory this weekend!

Freud and Lacan contributed to a radically new understanding of the subject as decentered, without a fully-present center that the subject controls. Freud took the idea that we are in control of our minds away with his introduction of the unconscious that subject are unaware of, and Lacan further complicated the subject by explaining how even “consciousness is structured like a language.” A result of Lacan’s structuralism, he posits that since language structures consciousness, the subject’s understanding of itself gets dispersed over sliding signifiers, never really knowing or understanding itself. This idea of the subject as constructed by language heavily influenced neo-marxist’s, such as Althusser and Zizek, ideas of ideology, as well as gender theorist, such as Irigaray. Lacan’s influence manifest most poignantly in the manner ideology affects the subject, who is constructed by language. These thinkers all use Lacan’s contributions to subject formation to reconfigure ways of thinking about the subject caught in ideology.

Althusser examines capitalism and the ideology at work within the system to explain how ideology (and capitalism) reproduces itself perpetually through Ideological State apparatuses (ISA). While this examination of ideology’s control over a population springs from Marxism, Althusser applies Lacan to Marxism in order to explain how subjects consent to ideology unconsciously. Maintaining the Marxist stress on economic causes, Althusser furthers this analysis to explain how ISAs function with autonomy. Althusser begins with Lacan’s concept of the Imaginary stage, the preverbal stage babies inhabit; at this point, consciousness is not Marx’s “false consciousness” but primordial. For Lacan, the subject then moves into language and the symbolic stages, also the place where the subject identifies with itself in the mirror, at the mirror stage. Althusser uses Lacan’s subject formation to explain how the subject is born into ideology, which, much like the Freudian unconscious, dictates how the subject behaves in society. Althusser posits that a subject’s individuality gets generated through social forces, and he uses Lacan’s mirror stage to explain how the subject identities itself in society.

Althusser states that ideology works on the idea of a Sign, where, in ideology, the sign is always (mis)recognized. While a subject might think that its actions are freely chosen, ideology sees to it that (unconsciously) its acts are pre-chosen. The subject, following Lacan’s subjectivity, sees an idealized version of itself, taught through ISAs and enforced by RSAs, in capitalism, but as it is in the mirror stage, this self is misrecognized; the subject puts itself in an idealized position in the capitalist system without realizing that it has no control over the system.

This analysis leaves a very bleak view of subjectivity, for how can a subject escape society’s trap when, as Marx put it “They do not know it, but they are doing it”? Althusser offers no solutions for the subject to escape. In Reading Capital, Althusser posits that more than answers, the questions posed need rethinking because the questions were based on the ideological answers already in misrecognition with the capitalist system. Furthermore, Althusser leaves very little room for critique since any critique arises out of the very ideology that has subjects tapped. More traditional Marxists critique Althusser’s lack of discussing class struggle, but if subjects are born into ideology, then the very idea of class and the structures of society arise out of ideology; therefore, by analyzing ideology, Althusser does—even if not directly—examine social structures. Lacan, through Althusser, contributes to rethinking Marxism, generally, and to thinking of ideology on the subject, specifically. Another problem to contemplate is who deploys this ideology? If subjects are all born into language, then the people in charge of ideology are also part of ideology and the analysis becomes a never-ending Russian doll or mirrors reflecting each other. Although, keeping Althusser’s idea about asking the correct questions in mind, Zizek examines ideology and the way it works in society as well, acknowledging that philosophy’s job is not to give answers but to ask the right questions.

Zizek strives to ask the correct questions, examining ideology and furthering what Althusser begins: ideology as the “thing” we participate in without knowing it. The subject’s belief in ideology establishes belief before the belief in ISAs. Again, just as in Althusser’s analysis of Lacan, the subject comes into ideology in the symbolic when the subject comes into language. Language, then, encompasses the subject—the space in which the subject lives (in a Heideggerian way, language is where the subject (Being) dwells). Zizek’s interest lies in the Lacanian Real and in the many manifestations of ideology, and how the Real accounts for language’s failure. The Real lies both within and outside of the subject, resisting the Symbolic’s attempts to describe it but also revealing the Real’s existence. Zizek views fantasy—object a—as a space that conceals the gap, which only proves the existence of the Real. The gap becomes what the subject most desires, imagining the other as possessing the thing that is desired. This “thing,” the gap, the desire of the subject that the other has, gets filled by ideology. Ideology tells the subject what to desire; much in the same manner that Althusser claims subjects follow ideology without awareness, Zizek claims that ideology tells the subject what to desire. Additionally, Zizek conceives of the Big Other as purely symbolic, yet having the power to order the subject’s actions. The Big Other is the institutions (ISAs for Althusser) that order reality, and the Real gets disavowed in favor of the symbolic. The Real, however, is “radically ambiguous…it erupts in the form of a traumatic return, derailing the balance of our daily lives, but it serves at the same time as a support of this very balance” (Zizek, Looking Awry 29). The Real then manifest itself both in ordering the symbloci universe of the subject as well as intruding and collapsing that universe.

Zizek posits that postmodernism claims that we live in an era of post-ideology; while he claims that we are actually more in ideology than ever, only a cynical ideology. Therefore, Zizek explains that the Real causes conflicts that arise because of social reality, the symbolic order. The conflicts that arise from the Real fall outside of language, but the conflicts are seen in the manner ideology works on subjects. Ideology conceals the lacuna opened up by attempts to thematize the Real, which falls outside of language, and leads Zizek to purport that objective truth remains impossible but that ideology must exist since this antagonism exist, which is what Zizek analyzes.

Zizek views subject formation in much the same way as Althusser in that the subject is born into language and language is ideology. For Zizek, ideology hides the real problems and causes the wrong questioning, a notion Althusser already analyzed. For Zizek the way to ask the right questions is to step back and explore the moments of the Real that erupt into reality. Lacan’s influence on Zizek is pervasive; as Zizek explains, he uses Lacan as his theoretical base to analyze everything from Marx, Hegel, and Kant to Hitchcock, film nior, and popular culture. Lacan’s biggest contribution to Zizek is in the former’s later conception of Real and the barrier between the Real and reality. Zizek can be said to contribute to Lacan’s work by continuing this analysis that Lacan start later in his career. Both Altheusser and Zizek build on Lacan’s ideas of the Law of the father to explore ideology. In Lacan’s theory, the child meets the Law of the father to realize its place in a network where its choices in that network are already determined, established by the society it was born into. Just as the subject in ideology is born into ideology and must follow the law of the society it is born into.

The problem of being born into the regulations of society manifest in the manner society determines sexuality, which Irigaray critiques. Lacan’s contribution to Irigaray, again, lies in his theory of subject formation. For Irigaray, however, Lacan excludes women. In the mirror stage, the infant projects an imaginary body that is misrecognized; then in the symbolic stage—entrance to language—the infant further begins to create an ego. Irigaray agrees with Lacan on these points, and with the cultural influence on how the subject sees its body biologically. The problem for Irigaray, emerges in Lacan’s master-signifier being the phallus, thus privileging the male. The imaginary construction of the body holds the male body in higher esteem throughout Western discourses of science, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, leaving women out. The subject, for Lacan, must have a relationship to the phallus to attain social existence.

For Lacan, the infant wants to usurp the Master Signifier and have all of the mother’s attention. When the baby realizes the law of the father prohibits the infant from taking over, the baby begins to realize its place in society, acquiring its own relationship to the phallus. Sexual difference arises out of having or being the phallus. These processes happen through language, which Irigaray explores, especially how gender arises out of cultural constructs bound up with language. Therefore, Lacan’s contributes to Irigaray by establishing her departure point, the gendering of the subject through language (ideology for Althusser and Zizek). She takes a radical step back from Lacan, refusing to categorize or explain female subjectivity, caliming that doing so would interfere with women redefining themselves; she then posits the inability to describe the feminine outside of male hegemony. Her project becomes problematic, in much the same manner as Derrida’s: how can anyone redefine women (even women) if everyone is caught in male vocabulary that has excluded women. Lacan, himself, failed to realize how immersed within ideology he was when he privileged males over females, leaving females out. Nonetheless, Lacan gave Irigaray the vocabulary to begin discussing the exclusion of females from Western thought.

Lacan helps all of these thinkers examine the subject caught up in ideology because of language. Society establishes a language and forgets the power of that language to control culture and thought. Lacan helps Althusser, Zizek, and Irigaray formulate subjects and subjects place within society, and that place is a precarious one since the subject is so radically fragmented form the mirror stage on, and these thinkers focus on that fragmentation and how hegemonic powers take advantage of that fragmentation to control it populous.

George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House fashions itself in the Russain tradition according to its author, but the humor aptly employs classic British understatement for its humor, and the play’s subtle sarcasm reminds me of an Oscar Wilde work.

Hesione Hushabye invites Ellie Dunn, her fiancé, and her father over for dinner to the house that Hesione’s father, Captain Shotover, built, resembling a ship. Before the dinner begins, Hesione’s sister, who had been away for years, arrives, supposedly unrecognized by her father, who might be crazy but highly intuitive. Throughout the play, the house affects all the characters in peculiar ways, revealing that all the characters are the opposite of the image they project.

The play takes place on the eve of WWI, and according to Shaw, reflects the debased society of British society that lead to war. The characters are all superficial in their way, liars, scoundrels, easily manipulated.

I believe the play informs the Lacanian symbolic space and the other. The characters mask, who they present to the world, breaks down, and the breakdown represents the breakdown of society as a whole, which leads to WWI. Zizek explains here.

We need to keep the illusion of the symbolic space, even if we all know the truth behind the illusion, in order to maintain a civil society. The play breaks down this space; the characters deny the pleasantries of knowing someone is a bad person but not pretending s/he actually is.

I am taking a food and theory class that is fascinating. I am really enjoying the class, but the professor has not been impressed with my responses to the readings at all. Hopefully, this one is better:

Because Pig is a Filthy Animal, and I Don’t Eat Filthy Animals: Why Do We Still Follow the Rules


This clip from Pulp Ficiton posted here ran through my head as I read Jean Soler and Marvin Harris. Dietary restrictions for religion have always fascinated me, and I finally have some answers as to where Kosher and Muslim laws come from; however, there was not much said about Catholicism. Growing up, I was always told that I could only eat once a day on Fridays during lent, and that when I did eat, I could not eat meat. Even today, while I no longer go to mass nor participate or believe in any of the catholic dogma I was taught, I still feel that tinge of guilt if I find myself eating meat on Friday during lent. This guilt goes beyond what Jules (Sam Jackson) is talking about in the clip (that I am eating something that is “filthy”). I do not feel bad because I believe meat is unclean, and after reading a decent amount of Derrida, I certainly don’t believe in the purity of food as discussed by Soler (64).

For instance, Soler points out that unleavened bread has not been fermented and is therefore clean and pure; however, as Derrida would assert, the idea of purity is a myth that has been socially constructed. In Dissemination, Derrida says “The purity of the inside can only be restored if the charges are brought home against exteriority as a supplement, inessential yet harmful to the essence, a surplus that ought never to have come to be added to the untouched plenitude of the inside” (128). Derrida argues that the Western philosophical tradition warns that a pure inside is always threatened by something form the outside, and this idea is what Soler is describing when he points out how unleavened flower “is true to its natural state” (Soler 62) and not changed by something from the outside. Therefore, one idea of food laws is to keep the body pure. However, a kosher food like coffee stains the idea of purity. Caffeine “alters a man’s judgment” (Soler 62), but because it comes from the earth, coffee is “pure.” While I know the myth of purity is simply a myth , and I can stand back and understand why Soler posits, “Uncleanness…is simply disorder” (64), I still feel that tinge of guilt when I break a dietary rule from a religion I no longer follow.

I also feel guilty if I do not have pork on New Year’s Eve. My family (as most Cuban families) has a long tradition of cooking an entire pig in a Caja China all day on New Year’s. The holiday would not be the same if I didn’t share this experience with my family. Food after all, is story; isn’t this idea what these articles are exploring: that the story we tell ourselves about food shapes our society, beliefs, and food restrictions ? While these articles do an excellent job of exploring the origins of these diet restrictions, my question is why these rules are followed today when we know the anachronisms of these rules? I believe that Derrida’s deconstructed reading of purity applies in my New Year’s example and breaking the rules example. The holiday’s purity depends on following a [pure] tradition older than my parents and my parents’ parents, just as following the rules do.

The Pulp Fiction scene is a good starting point to begin discussing how these rules have survived because it illustrates a morally ambiguous character’s food restrictions. Besides the initial health reasons that Harris points out, these dietary restrictions are more complicated. For instance, my friends and I would go to bars and drink and smoke and ingest things that were by no means healthy or clean, yet on the way home, at Taco Bell at four in the morning on Friday, my lapsed Catholic friends would refuse to eat meat and remind me that I shouldn’t eat meat either . While the Pulp Fiction example is extreme, it relates. Jules is a hired killer, who, we see from the pervious scene, has no restrictions against eating meat (he takes a bite out of Brett’s burger). However, he won’t eat pork. Certainly, his reasons don’t concern health. He smokes and kills people, and yet he will refrain from eating pork because he views it as “filthy.” There are endless examples of people who do not believe in the religion they were brought up on, do not go to church, do not abide by any of their religion’s other rules and yet follow the dietary restrictions of their religion.

Slavoj Zizek has an interesting anecdote that I feel can be applied to explain why people hold on to dietary restrictions. Zizek describes his aversion to sharing food at a Chinese restaurant, which led to his friend’s psychoanalysis of Zizek’s fear to share a sexual partner. Zizek’s answer to this fear is a variation on De Quincey’s “art of murder.” The true horror for Zizek is “not sexual promiscuity but sharing a Chinese dish” (ix). What Zizek’s reading of De Quincey is describing is that art is amoral, so murders can be either mundane and dull or artistically beautiful in execution—murder can be art. De Quincey states, “If once a man indulges in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination” (2). That is to say, how many people have entered eternal punishment by some banal and innocent murder, which when perpetrated was no big deal to them, and ended up uncivilly eating meat on Friday during Lent .

Zizek’s reading of the “art of murder” can be applied to the non-religious who still follow religious food laws. The dietary restrictions followed today stem primarily from original sin. Forbidden food signifies the first sin humankind committed; therefore, lapsed Catholics still equate the food they are not supposed to eat with the introduction of pain and sin into the world. For example, after eating the fruit, woman has to feel pain during childbirth, man has to toil the ground, man rules over his wife, the snake has to crawl on the ground, and man and woman are thrown out of paradise. All for eating some fruit; meanwhile after murdering Abel, Cain gets a mark of distinction and “knows” his wife. It appears the punishment for eating the fruit might have been more severe than for murder, which is why I think lapsed Catholics won’t eat meat on Fridays despite not following any of the other rules, and the reason is because of De Quincey’s art of murder.

Zizek equates the idea of the art of murder to a “displacement” that underlies our Western philosophical attitude since the time of the Enlightenment and is why my lapsed Catholic friends refuse to eat meat while indulging in other sins. Zizek makes the connection between Immanuel Kant’s enlightenment ideas and the injunction to obey traditional authority. As Zizek describes: “We must be careful here not to miss what Kant is aiming at—he is not simply restating the common motto of conformism, ‘In private, think whatever you want, but in public, obey authorities!’ but rather its opposite: in public, ‘as a scholar before the reading public,’ use your reason freely, yet in private (at your post, in your family, i.e., as a cog in the social machine) obey authority” (ix-x). This idea is precisely what is happening with morally ambiguous characters, like Jules, and what is happening with people like friends of mine who will, in public, drink to excess, smoke, do drugs, but in private, will not eat meat during Lent. Furthermore, I believe that the food restrictions are followed because foods are a narrative; therefore, for example, part of my childhood memories are the smell of fish and chips and my mom’s special cocktail sauce after a day of playing outside on Lent Fridays. Following the rules is a way for one to remember the past so that it is not about the rule any longer but about the memory tied with food.

Works Cited:
Derrida, Jacques. Dissemination. Trans. Barbara Johnson. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.

Quincey, Thomas De. “On Murder Considered One of the Fine Arts.” W. W. Norton Company.
Books.wwnorton.com/books. Web. 3 Sept. 2011.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and out. New York:
Routledge, 2008. Print.

Here is what I am working on in terms of a theory of heartbreak: The poems used here are read literally with none of the irony that Millay intended. I just want to use the words she writes to flush out ideas, so this is in no way meant to be a reading of Millay, but rather a thought experiment on heartbreak:

I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.”
– Ednay St. Vincent Millay “Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied”

The Millay poem quoted captures a feeling of heartbreak and of what happens in heartbreak. After being in love and spending time with a loved one, when that loved one is no longer present, the memory of that person lingers. The heartbroken tries to forget, but in forgetting suddenly becomes aware that the ex-beloved has been forgotten and, in turn, the heartbroken is reminded of the loss, which turns the beloved into an object of contemplation. I believe Martin Heidegger can inform this feeling of heartbreak. The beloved is gone and forgotten, “there is no memory of him”; that is, until the heartbroken remembers that the beloved was forgotten, which leads to the heartbroken standing “stricken, so remembering him.” In the one heartbroken, the memory of the beloved resembles Heidegger’s present-at-hand. Furthermore, the heartbroken’s emotions lose their ontological definition or “ready-to-hand[ness].” Heidegger describes the interconnections of Being and all the things Being interacts with in the world. The tools that Dasein interacts with are what is ready-to-hand. As Dasein moves through the world in average everydayness, the things in the world, the ready-to-hand tools in the world, remain unnoticed. In other words, when things are going smoothly, we become absorbed in everydayness in the world, but when something breaks, we notice the interconnectedness of the world, and we also notice how that previously ignored tool relates to the world—that is, the tool becomes present-at-hand. The longer the tool is broken, the more the tool becomes an object of contemplation; as Charles Guignon describes the situation:

As we adopt a stance in which things are explicitly noticed, we can be led to believe that what have been there “all along” are value free, meaningless objects whose usefulness was merely a product of our own subjective interest and needs. Heidegger’s point, however, is that this conception of reality a consisting of essentially contextless objects can arise only derivatively from a more “primordial” way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world (13)

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Guignon goes on to explain how this is a product of the “disworlding of the world” and is not how the world is actually built. I would argue this explanation Heidegger gives informs heartbreak. When heartbreak occurs, is there not a sense that something is being taken for granted in the relationship? People get comfortable and start to treat loved ones as mere objects in the world, as a tool that is merely ready-to-hand, and then with the dissolution of the relationship and the onset of heartbreak, suddenly, the relationship and the beloved become “a meaningless object” who was only used for our own selfish subjective interest and needs. The relationship and the other become objects of contemplation as if something was broken. However, the heartbroken’s contemplation can lead to a “more primordial way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world.” In heartbreak, the heartbroken becomes aware of his/her world and the lack of the beloved in it.

In order to understand heartbreak and what happens in heartbreak, it is important to understand identity because heartbreak makes a subject confront his/her identity in a radical way. Heidegger posits identity as Dasein. Dasein is the being that asks about its own being. This being is a being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death. Within this conception, Heidegger explains that Dasien is always a taking up of possibilities. The structure of being that Heidegger outlines is as an always-already being in the world thrown ahead of itself into its potentiality, but being thrown ahead of itself Dasein still has to deal with the past while always having the potentiality of the end ahead of itself. Heidegger describes it as such:

The ahead-of-itself presented itself as a not-yet. But the ahead-of-itself,
characterized in the sense of something outstanding, revealed itself to our
genuine existential reflection as being toward the end, something that in the
depths of its being every Da-sein is (Heidegger 292, italics in original).

In heartbreak, this ‘ahead-of-itself’ as a ‘not-yet’ is manifested because the not-yet—the possibilities that Dasein can take up in the future—is no longer possible. The other has left and with the other leaving, so to do all the possibilities Dasein had with the other. Heartbreak gives rise to the feeling of life being broken, of identity being changed, and of Dasein looking at its life in contemplation as an object present-at-hand.

— I have more ideas about this– so I am going to leave this here and come back to it. This might be what I explore in my dissertation.

On Zizek’s “Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing”

Zizek sets out to explore the notion of “courtly love” and claims that it is only in the last century, with the emergence of masochism and the masochistic couples that we can begin to “grasp the libidinal economy of courtly love” (2407).

Zizek outlines the first problem of looking at courtly love, which is that the Lady is idealized; the woman is rasied to a sublime, radical Otherness, which makes her Freud’s uncanny ‘Das Ding’ (the Thing) and which he suggest is an example of Lacan’s Real—that is a thing which resist articulation and being placed in the symbolic order (it is unknowable). Furthermore, the Lady-Thing is just a mirror reflecting the narcissistic ideal projection of the subject.

The second problem with looking at courtly love is that courtly love has nothing to do with passion; it is just a “fictional formula” where the man pretends “as if” the Lady is inaccessible (2409). Zizek links this idea with a masochistic relationship, where the couple where the couple pretends “as if” the masochist has no power; although, it is the masochist who dictates the contract of the relationship. This relationship is a busness exchange (not psychological).

The principle mistake to avoid, Zizek posits, is reducing this inaccessibility to a mere “dialectic of desire and prohibition” (2412). Zizek describes how in courtly love the man creates obstacles and barriers around the Lady; as the Real, the only way to approach the Lady is at an angle, indirectly. This is Lacanian sublimation, where an everyday object is raised to impossible Thing. To reduce the rest of the argument into a concise summary: the subject claims to want to sleep with the womean, but in reality, he is scared and so creates barriers of postponement. The Lady, like the phallus, becomes a symbol for both enjoyment and for castration (2415).

Then by looking at a number of examples (most prominently The Crying Game), Zizek elucidates how true love is ‘the stretching out of the hand, “towards the loving one and to ‘return love’” (2421).

Zizek uses these examples to make his argument: that courtly love (and any conception of “love”) only reinforces this imbalance in the sexes, and it is only in the masochist relationship that a true symmetry in a relationship can be achieved.

I first read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” as an undergrad during a Woolf class in which we read To the Lighthouse. It was my first ever introduction to feminism, and the idea that Woolf is analyzing here, fascinated me back then and still does today.While this idea is confined here to a feminist perspective, I think the implications are the same ones that apply to the second half of readings as well as to a certain Marxist perspective of material culture.

It is the culture, after all, that denies Shakespeare’s sister a chance to express her artistic talents, simply for being a woman. It is scary to think how accurate Woolf is in claiming that,

“When […] one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen” (898).

The world has surely lost a number of talented artist for their gender or race or color or location or socio-economic situation. Hurston and Gilman are two examples of writers that were almost lost to society because they were not WASPY males.

Woolf’s second piece anticipates some of the arguments that De Beauvoir’s will make. Woolf asserts that women in literature have only been shown in relation to men and rarely does one see two women as good friends. Woolf goes on to say that relationships between woman in literature have been “too simple.” This is a point that De Beauvior takes up with her analysis of woman: “To pose Woman is to pose the absolute Other.” De Beauvior does an excellent job of pointing out the contradictions in how woman have been portrayed throughout, not just literature, but history. This analysis points out Sartre’s limitations. Sartre says that one can only know himself through the other, but then says that woman are mysterious.

DeBeauviour looks at this myth of woman as mysterious, as virgin, as demon, as idealized, and as always absolute other of man. Her claim, which I believe is more astute than Sartre’s, is that woman is no more mysterious than man is mysterious to woman, and that to make these outrageous claims is just lazy and to promote the patriarchy. Making claims such as this goes against the first tenet of existentialism, in which “existence precedes essence.” That is that woman (nor men) have any essence outside of their actions. These idealized and categorical claims men make on women puts women in an absolute, deny women the ability to make themselves and totalizing them. The point should be, rather, that the relations between men and women are reciprocal, a give and take of subjectivity. In the views of men, the Hegelian dialectic of relations between men and women, women are always the slaves to men.

It is this mystification that Woolf is looking at in literature in “Chloe likes Olivia.” Additionally, I feel that in “Androgyny,” Woolf is calling for this reciprocity that De Beoavior wants. For the dialectic not to be dominated by the male perspective, but rather, that there has to be a true dialectic. One in which a synthesis of “male” and “female” is balanced.

I think I will stop here before I go on too long. My problem is that I am reading a Zizek essay in which he looks at the idea of sexualization. He looks at the idea of “femininity” vs. “masculinity” to show how this are constructed categories– which leads back to the idea I started off with: how much of all we are, of all our identity, and of everything we think of as “us” is really just a social construct that we have been duped into believing?