Friday, May 15, 2009

Term Paper

Judith Fetterley writes that “American literature is male” and that “our literature neither leaves women alone nor allows them to participate. It insists on its universality at the same time that it defines that universality in specifically male terms” (1). No novel has truly expressed the accuracy of this idea than William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Of all the objectives that As I Lay Dying is credited of accomplishing in its stream of consciousness narrative, the 40th chapter narrated by Addie Bundren, dead and about to be buried, indicates a heightened awareness of feminist perspectives. As with American writing that followed, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, another towering influence in American literature, the influence of personal perspective in the narration of the story is almost unavoidable. Furthermore, the originality of the way As I Lay Dying deals with feminist undertones, such as the fact that the female protagonist is dead to begin with and does not get to share her personal truth until almost the very end of the narrative in itself expresses these feminist ideas. The central idea of the novel, Addie’s dying wish to be buried in Jefferson, Missouri and the almost muted recounting of her life, which at first glance seem ordinary, act as the most vivid expositions of Feminism, or rather the need for a voice to the female self.
In order to fully understand Addie as a character, it is imperative to consider several aspects that drive the narrative--the deeds that she implores her family to fulfill upon her death, and the words that she either fails to find or finds inadequate to express herself. Therefore, it is not about what kind of woman Addie is, but rather the circumstances in which such a woman exists within that makes her case interesting and unique.
Being unable to discover herself in the true sense as a complete person, separate from a less than loving husband and her burden of children, and how she is unable to comprehend what she might want out of her life. Furthermore, the streak of rebellious sense of discovery that she possesses, but is never fully able to implement in her life leads her to do things or bid other things for her that sound bizarre to neighbors, outsiders, or even the readers of the novel.
“As a young schoolteacher in the neighborhood of Anse’s farm, she endures the bitterness and frustration of not knowing what she is searching for” (Van O’Connor 47). In more straight-forward depictions of Addie, she is described as a person not too aware of her life. For example, in decoding Addie’s character, Max Putzel writes “Anyway Addie is a town woman, a schoolteacher who looks down on plain folks like the Tulls. Only later do we learn how Addie had hated her job and her pupils, as her father had taught her to hate life itself. But once, stirred to the depths of her being by signs of springtime and life slipping away from her grasp, she had taken and married Anse out of convenience. Addie’s family had long passed and so both were orphans without kin, and she had been alone with her hatred. However, she came to regret marrying Anse, for she soon found him out. When her second son, Darl, was born she made Anse promise to bury her in Jefferson with her own people. And she hated Anse and would not lie with him, wanting only to die. But ten years later at a camp meeting she was deeply stirred once more, this time by the preacher who came to her in the woods “dressed in sin like a gallant garmen” (Faulkner 167). Soon after, she gave birth to her Jewel and so was forced to give Anse two more children of his own to make up for her sin and her deceit (which was worse) and her enjoyment of both” (Putzel 201).
But this is an overly simplistic approach to understanding the motivations of Addie. A statement that Addie repeats in various forms throughout her narrative, as well as the throughout the entire novel is “I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.” These words of her father cannot be interpreted as a hatred of life, but a deeper respect for and a preoccupation with death. Her wish to buried in Jefferson is a manifestation of this deeply-held belief that she needs to make adequate arrangements for her death, which according to her might be of a longer duration in terms of permanence.
The most important contribution of Addie to the novel and perhaps even American literature, however, is the voice of the woman, or the lack thereof. A seemingly simple and normal life becomes an object of “grotesque, tragic comedy” because of a promise she extracts and her husband, in false heroism, agrees to fulfill. The liberty to explore her emotions and the freedom to talk about her sexuality are Addie’s primary concerns. She rebels against the patriarchal society that does not allow her the freedom nor the tools of expression necessary to accomplish just this. In more than once instance, by her seeming incapability to either name or put in words her feelings towards her sexuality, Addie successfully embodies the psychological oppression of the female in the male-dominated society. As Annette Wannamaker points out with examples from the novel, “it is precisely Addie’s inability to express her thought using words that gives her chapter such power. Through her awkward attempts to express the inexpressible, we see the way language fails to convey Addie’s existence. A key point in Addie’s monologue comes when she cannot find a word with the symbolic order to represent her body in the way that she perceives it to be: “The shape of my body where I used to be a virgin is in the shape of a ‘(Faulkner 165). There is no word within patriarchal language to describe Addie’s sexuality. Because it is not represented through language, “her body-specifically her genitalia--does not exist, it is invisible; it is--as Lacan describes it--a "lack," an emptiness, nothing. Because a woman lacks a penis and therefore the power of the phallus, she cannot be represented within the symbolic order. For example, Addie does not have a word to describe her sexual desire for the minister. She can only refer to what she and Whitfield do in the woods as "sin": "I would think of sin as I would think of the clothes we both wore in the world's face, of the circumspection necessary because he was he and I was I" (Faulkner 166). Addie is aware of the lack of a word to describe her desire and of the construction of a word like "sin" by the very man with whom she was "sinning"“ (Wannamaker).
The second most important, but equally as significant, contribution of Addie is the psychological power of a seemingly powerless woman on a typical family. Her lack of stern voice in the happenings during her days alive, become her strengths when she is dead. If the “carnival-esque” funeral procession is an objectification of the maternal body and some underlying preoccupation of man with the body of the mother is to be taken as the final rite of passage of Addie, it is also imperative to consider the power held by women in spit of, or perhaps precisely through her so-called weaker position in this male oriented society.
Addie’s death not only aids in bringing about a common purpose to her family, but also advances the culmination of several storms brewing in their individual lives. Anse finds it beneficial to return home with a new Mrs. Bundren. Darl is sent to an asylum at the end of the novel, even though it is his though processes that seem the most sane in the novel. Jewel comes to show his affection and devotion to his mother but only after her death as he saves her from water and fire though he always acted hurt to her while she was alive. Cash, the oldest son, with whom Addie shares a special bond endures immense physical and mental pain to accomplish what is seen as his mother’s death wish. The pregnant and penniless Dewey Dell finds herself at similar crossroads although her motivations behind the journey along with the dead body were entirely different. She finds herself none the wiser even at the end of the novel. Vardaman, the youngest son is constantly perplexed by the happenings and tries to interpret it within his own, small world of limited references. This is to show that Addie was not very effective in her life with her husband or her children, but she might have achieved something of a miracle in committing all of them to a purposeful journey (though it might seem bizarre or grotesque to outsiders) which culminates in either self-actualization or reassertion of stereotypes.
The third contribution of Addie which is directly in resonance to the beliefs of any feminist philosophy is her exposition of a person’s alone-ness. She talks of it almost as a universal right to retain the traces of individualism. Any act that forces this alone-ness is a gross violation and the principal reason for all bitterness. The theory that a person has the right to alone-ness, as opposed to loneliness, is a strong precursor to the theory of a female individual--an almost unheard of concept in the not so emancipated times of Faulkner. The urge to go against the set rules of society and discover the terms of life by oneself is the purpose of any feminist. Being left alone to try and to accomplish them is the “alone-ness” that Addie speaks of. However, a marriage that is more of a compromise than a sought after union honoring love and any personal fulfillment, child birth glorified by all others and by society, and not allowing the woman herself to decide whether she wants such violations of her principal space are all disillusions Addie suffers in life. As pointed out by O’Conner, “we live, she believes, by violating our aloneness. Words like love and sin, which signify the violations are often too abused, used meaninglessly……and those who are not involved, regardless of the events in which they are caught, do not live meaningfully- they move through the world like wraiths” (47).
Fetterley states that “Power is the issue in the politics of literature, as it is in the politics of anything else. To be excluded from a literature that claims to define one’s identity is to experience a peculiar form of powerlessness- not simply the powerlessness which derives from not seeing one’s experiences articulated, clarified, and legitimized in art, but more significantly the powerlessness which results from the endless division of self against self, the consequence of the invocation to identify as male while being reminded that to be male- to be universal, to be American- is to be not female” (2). Addie seems to be entirely excluded from the novel which would essentially establish her as a powerless figure in the novel. Her chapter, however, which remains the only chapter in which she possesses a voice, defines and shapes her identity more so than the entire contents of the novel.
To conclude, perhaps the most important contribution towards feminism through the representation of Addie is the fact that she is not a representation of any race or gender, but on an individual who struggles, mostly unsuccessfully, through her life to find an identity of her won outside of the conventional social boundaries. The very concept of identity and the words that are associated with this exploration are so deceptive that they are as false and constrictive as any other orders of a patriarchal society. Both the sense of social oppression and her inability to find the right language to communicate this oppression essentially the reasons for her disillusionment. She states that “When I knew that I had Cash…That was when I learned that words are no; that words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to say at. When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn't care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride, who never had the pride (Faulkner 163-4).
We mentioned several times throughout the semester that language is an invention of society, always reforming; it is a model of a society. It is precisely because of this that the terms used for several feminine emotions do not carry the sincerity or familiarity with the female truth. They are attempts by a male dominated society to cast unknown phenomenon of both body and mind that happen in a female to suit their worldview. As Annette Wannamaker points out, this heightened sense of awareness of the fact that the language she uses is not adequate to express the feelings only her bosom can feel is the ultimate pronunciation of the feminist worldview--that the world never took into account what a woman had to say and more importantly, how she wanted to say it. Wannamaker mentions that Addie knew “that because she is forced to communicate using language constructed by someone "other" than herself, she has no control over it, no power within it. When Addie tries to speak, each word carries with it meaning she does not intend. And Addie is aware of this. She knows that language speaks for her and that even in the act of trying to move beyond language, she must use language. In order to convey the meaninglessness of words, she must use words.”
One may even view this as a prompt from Faulkner--that women need to create their own idiom to recreate their life experiences, their feelings and expectations, their dreams and aspirations and most importantly, their own personal journey towards self discovery and self identity. It is also a taunt to the existing system of both thought and language that a new and different set of communication was imminent. For example, if a woman who was well within the limitations placed on her by a patriarchal society had such a sway over the family to make them embark on a seemingly bizarre and twisted journey, it would be a challenge to comprehend how the female mind works when a new idiom is created.
Faulkner essentially utilizes three different tools to achieve a greater impact to this depiction of feminism through Addie: the stream of consciousness narrative in which he writes proves to be a major contributor to this effect. The reader is not allowed to settle into a narrative style or a perspective. But all of them contain Addie or her dead body either in the foreground or background of consciousness. It does not allow the reader to lose sight of Addie, making them think what kind of woman would have her family go through all of the trouble after her death and what is her influence on the family that they undertake it?
The second most important technique that Faulkner uses to draw attention to the feminist overtones in Addie’s character is by the placement of her own narrative. When the story has been going along narrating the trials of the family in trying to grant Addie her wish in death, Faulkner surprises the reader by adding her own narrative. By this time, the reader is surely curious about the character but would not expect getting a firsthand narrative of Addie. What can one expect at that point is perhaps a third person recounting of a life more or less ordinary. But suddenly, the reader is opened to the innermost world of the woman whose dead body forms the focal point around which the novel revolves. In the summary of As I Lay Dying in Great American Writers, Baird Shuman writes, “Addie Bundren’s one, thematically pivotal chapter occurs two-thirds of the way through the novel-five days and twenty eight chapters after her death. This deferral, initially disorienting, reinforces the death as a subject of psychological accommodation rather than a mere psychological fact” (490).
The third and perhaps the most important tool is the absence of Faulkner himself. He is absent essentially because the narrative is crowded with so many narratives and all of them offer different motivations and angles to the events. As William E. Cain puts it “A more appropriate way of characterizing As I Lay Dying is difficult to imagine, for Faulkner is indeed missing--missing as Addie is missing, nonetheless commanding our attention and our attempts to account for his seemingly invisible control” (177). However missing Addie may be from the events of the novel, and perhaps even the events of her own life, it is unmistakable that she epitomizes the underlying feminist tones that As I Lay Dying propounds.

Works Cited

Cain, William E. Philosophical Approaches to Literature: New Essays on Nineteenth and Twentieth-century Texts. Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 1983.

Fetterley, Judith. "On the Politics of Literature." Literary Theory: An Anthology.

Putzel, Max. Genius of place: William Faulkner's triumphant beginnings. Los Angeles: LSU Press, 1985.

Van O'Conner, William. The Tangled Fire of William Faulkner. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2009

Wannamaker, Annette. Viewing Addie Bundren through a feminist lens. 26 February. Teaching Faulkner. 11 May 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Just a Girl"

by No Doubt
Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I'm exposed
And it's no big surprise
Don't you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand
'Cause I'm just a girl, little ol' me
Well don't let me out of your sight
Oh, I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don't let me have any rights
Oh...I've had it up to here!

The moment that I step outside
So many reasons
For me to run and hide
I can't do the little things
I hold so dear
'Cause it's all those little things
That I fear

'Cause I'm just a girl.
I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive
Late at night
Oh I'm just a girl,
Guess I'm some kind of freak
'Cause they all sit and stare
With their eyes
Oh I'm just a girl.
Take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype
Oh...I've had it up to here! I making myself clear?

I'm just a girl
I'm just a girl in the world...
That's all that you'll let me be!

Oh I'm just a girl, living in captivity
Your rule of thumb
Make me worry some
Oh I'm just a girl, what's my destiny?
What I've succumbed to
Is making me numb
Oh I'm just a girl. My apologies
What I've become is so burdensome
Oh I'm just a girl. Lucky me
Twiddle-dum there's no comparison

Oh...I've had it up to!
Oh...I've had it up to!!
Oh...I've had it up to here.

Gilbert and Gubar write that “from the eighteenth century on, conduct books for ladies had proliferated, enjoining young girls to submissiveness, modesty, selflessness; reminding all women that they should be angelic” and should "devote herself to the good of others" (816). Often times it feels as though not much has progressed since the eighteenth century. Although women are now expected, and even commended, to enter the work field just as their binary opposites--men--society continues to dictate that the primary role of the woman exists first and foremost within the home. The woman is expected to fit the traditional cookie-cutter mold of the perfect housewife--meek, docile, compliant, and most importantly, a good maid and en even better cook. Dissatisfied with this chauvinistic image of the fantasized archetypal woman, many women in popular culture felt necessitated to voice their discontent.
In No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”, the band, steered by Gwen Stefani, voice their exasperation over society’s prescriptions of what and how a woman is assumed to be. The satirical and sardonic lyrics, written by Stefani, express not only the conventions of the typical woman in society, but the frustration of which that accompanies. Stefani explains that not only is merely being a female equivalent to that of a freak, but is “burdensome”. The band not only expresses the restrictions placed upon women, both physically and mentally, but exemplifies the rules society has bestowed upon women.
No Doubt tactfully yet explicitly address the issue of a male dominated society that is “forcing us to hold your hand”, implying that the woman’s every move is to be cautiously guided and led by a man. Women are then expected to simply sit back and “[live] in captivity” and watch as her male-regulated life passes her by. She has no say in any aspect of her life, and is thus powerless. She is not, however, excluded from society, holistically, but is in exclusion from her own life. Although in reference to literature, Judith Fetterley states “power is the issue in the politics of literature, as it is in the politics of anything else. To be excluded from a literature that claims to define one’s identity is to experience a peculiar form of powerlessness” (2). The quote can also be attributed to aspects beyond literature; to be excluded in general is to experience powerlessness, which is essentially what Stefani propounds through her lyrics. Dwelling on this concept, Fetterley goes on to say that “our literature neither leaves women alone nor allows them to participate” (1). Addressing these issues and the rules and regulations society has placed upon women is in itself participation, thus challenging and ultimately breaking free from the traditional and stereotypical roles of the woman.

Works Cited

Antipodal. "Just a Girl". YouTube. 7 December 2006 .

Fetterley, Judith. "On the Politics of Literature." Literary Theory: An Anthology.

Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael
Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. pg. 812-825 and Ch.3 "On the Politics of
Literature" by Judith Fetterley

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Flew Over the Panopticon

The film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest essentially sheds light into a tyrannically run mental institution and its inhabitants. The oppressive and autocratic Nurse Ratched rules the entire ward, meticulously watching and governing the inmates’ every action and utterance. Randle McMurphy, one of the film’s central characters and one of the newer patients, serves as the force that opposes the despotic nurse time and time again.
The nurses’ station, symbolically and strategically placed in the focal center of the ward, signifies the absolute power and control the authority figure possesses. Michel Foucault mentions that “all that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower" (554) and that "any individual, taken almost at random, can operate this machine" (555). As in any society, however, a nonconformist must exist. While throughout the film McMurphy continually tests and challenges the authority of his supervisor, his rebellious and defiant nature is best exemplified in the following scene in which he attempts to strangle his supervisor.

The mental ward in this case serves as the Panopticon, which Foucault describes as inducing “in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power (554). The patients are fully aware that their every move is being carefully monitored; and as long as this is the case, they wouldn’t dare do otherwise than what’s expected of them-to be compliant and submissive inmates. Any patient who refuses subordination is immediately reprimanded with severe consequences (electroshock treatments, lobotomies, etc.). And as Foucault mentions, “the disciplines provide, at the base, a guarantee of the submission of forces and bodies"(565).

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 549-566.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Analysis 4

Upon doing the readings for Marxism, I couldn’t help but recall a short excerpt of Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times I had read a while back.

Book I chapter 5
Coketown, to which Messrs Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was a triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs Gradgrind herself. Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before pursuing our tune. It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next. These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the work by which it was sustained; against them were to be set off, comforts of life which found their way all over the world, and elegancies of life which made, we will not ask how much of the fine lady, who could scarcely bear to hear the place mentioned.

Although this remains the only fragment of the novel I’ve read, it is unmistakable that the text relates to clear Marxist ideology.

In today’s modern world where technology and machinery prevail, appreciation for the simple and humble is practically nonexistent. The nineteenth century, similarly, proved to be a time of great change as industrialization and modernization began to dominate. For the greater part of the nineteenth century, major parts of the world experienced drastic changes socially, economically and politically, as we saw an increasing trend towards poverty, unemployment and noticeably dreadful working conditions. In our present day, the working conditions prove to be quite similar to that of 19th century England. With industrialization and modernization still on the rise, many factory job positions are needed to be occupied. Many people not skilled enough for other occupations have no choice but to work a factory job. Not only are the hours long and burdensome, the pay is close to nothing, and many of the jobs are often dangerous, with most employers offering no benefits or workman’s compensation for injuries.
Many authors held negative views on the industrialization of England and believed that its disadvantages heavily outweighed its advantages. In Charles Dickens’s excerpt from his novel Hard Times, Dickens presents his view of the working conditions and the industrialization of a fictional city in England known as Coketown. It is clear through his descriptions that the city has been considerably industrialized, and subsequently the city has become a place of monotonous redundancy. Along with the modernization and industrialization of England came the pollution and contamination, which is evidently present in our modern world. Dickens provides a vivid description of the pollution of Coketown and it is clear that from the trail of “interminable serpents of smoke” drifting out of chimneys to the “river that ran purple”, the city of Coketown is heavily polluted due to its industrialization. In the excerpt, however, Dickens primarily focuses his train of thought on the city’s blandness and mentions several times that all the red brick buildings, which no longer contain their red hue due to the pollution, look the same. He continues this idea of “sameness” and refers to the streets that all look the same, the people who all look the same, sound the same and do the same and propounds the idea that the industrialization has transformed people into machines rather than human beings. These people no longer have identities as individuals, but rather, they belong to a group- to the proletariat (the working class). On the opposite end, we have the bourgeoisie-those who own the means of production. V.N. Volosinov in “Marxism and the Philosophy of Language” explains that “individual choice under these circumstances, of course, can have no meaning at all.” Clearly, the society existing within Coketown relies heavily on production. Without the proletariat, production would cease to exist. Hence, the bourgeoisie would cease to exist. Karl Marx explains in “The Manifesto of the Communist Party” that ‘the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.”

Marx, Karl. "The Manifesto of the Communist Party." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Volosinov, V.N.. "Marxism and the Philosophy of Language." Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 1st ed. Malden: Blackwell, 1998.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Psychoanalysis Group Presentation Contributions

Group Presentation Contributions

In regards to the group presentation, I was a part of the Psychoanalysis group. I feel we all contributed a fair and productive amount in the success of our presentation. Our group met several times at the Freudian Sip to discuss and organize our presentation. We split our group into two parts, with Alina, Kira, Maria and Eric working on their “Dating Game”; Chantal, Eric, Marina, and myself took the responsibility of working on our own concept. I later came up with the idea to hold a therapy session with Eric as the psychoanalyst, in which I, Chantal, and Marina would represent the Id, Ego and the Superego, respectively. We met and further dwelled on this idea and each member contributed their thoughts on how we could go about incorporating this into our presentation. I also came up with the idea to utilize the Rorschach Inkblot Test and have myself, Chantal and Marina interpret it as our roles. I also found the Gillette commercial shown during our presentation to which we applied the Oedipus Complex.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A 'Closer' Look at Psychoanalysis

In Psychoanalysis, the Id is “a combination of sexual libido and other instincts, such as aggression that propel the human organism through life, moving it to grow, develop, and eventually to die” (Rivkin, 391). What better way to exemplify this aspect of psychoanalysis than through the lyrics of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.”

*I apologize in advance for the vulgarity of these lyrics.

Nine Inch Nails

You let me violate you, you let me desecrate you
You let me penetrate you, you let me complicate you
Help me I broke apart my insides, help me I’ve got no soul to sell
Help me the only thing that works for me, help me get away from myself
I want to f*ck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to f*ck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to god
You can have my isolation, you can have the hate that it brings
You can have my absence of faith, you can have my everything
Help me tear down my reason, help me it’s your sex I can smell
Help me you make me perfect, help me become somebody else
I want to f*ck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to f*ck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to god

Through every forest, above the trees
Within my stomach, scraped off my knees
I drink the honey inside your hive
You are the reason I stay alive

The Id essentially deals with our primal urges and takes no account for the rational or logical. Rather, it is responsible for our innermost raw desires, obsessions and impulses. The lyrics above demonstrate this concept of the need for satisfaction and the absence of the rational. Words like “violate”, "desecrate", and "penetrate" suggest not only the need for satisfaction, but rather the need for an animalistic and violent satisfaction. This carnal form of satisfaction is further propounded by the line, “I want to f*ck you like an animal”, which is echoed multiple times throughout the song. Nine Inch Nails go on to say “You get me closer to God”. This suggests that the speaker is so empowered by this act of carnality that he feels almost God-like. They later go on to say, “You can have my absence of faith…help me tear down my reason.” These lines suggest that in this act of animalism, there exists no sense of faith nor reason, further demonstrating the concept of the Id.

"Closer" by Nine Inch Nails

Works Cited

Erikerodri. "Nine Inch Nails-Closer (good quality)". YouTube. 10 October 2007.

Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. "Introduction: Strangers to Ourselves: Psychoanalysis." Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sex and the Semiotics?

She embodies all that is woman-beauty, brains, class, and not to mention the $400 pair of Manolo Blahniks. She is the epitome of perfection. She is sophistication and charm, yet innocence all at once. Who is this mystery woman I speak of? None other than the eternally fabulous Manhattanite, Carrie Bradshaw.

When we think ‘Carrie Bradshaw’, we instinctively have an image triggered in our minds: flawless, timeless, FABULOUS. Although a fictional character, Bradshaw unmistakably embodies very desirable and enviable traits, however realistic and attainable they may be. Not only does she have the fabulous job, she has the fabulous apartment, the fabulous friends, the fabulous wardrobe, all of which essentially construct the fabulous life. Not only does she possess qualities that are undeniably desirable, she herself is desired by men. Throughout time, she’s dated the insecure novelist, the affluent and successful Russian artist, the handsome nice guy, and most notably, “Big”, the sexy, successful, brooding businessman, with whom Carrie has had an extensive on and off relationship.
However fictional the character may be, rest assured there are many Carrie Bradshaw hopefuls. Yes, to a certain extent, we’d all like to attain the perfect ‘Barbie and Ken’ lifestyle, but why? Are we so incredibly dissatisfied and unhappy with our own lives that we resort to measuring our lives against a fictional character’s? Jonathan Culler in “The Linguistic Foundation” responds best by saying, “the cultural meaning of any particular act or object is determined by a whole system of constitutive rules; rules which do not regulate behavior so much as create the possibility of particular forms of behavior” (56). We see Bradshaw as an icon who must be idolized and eventually reproduced and imitated. She is no longer a person, but rather a representation; a symbol, upon which others construct themselves. Our culture (from above) dictates that one must act a certain way, dress a certain way, listen to a certain genre of music, etc. Only the privileged, however, are lucky enough to be socially and culturally oppressed in this manner. Those who are not as privileged, or merely choose to deviate from this culturally accepted behavior, are consequently shunned and looked down upon.
In contrast to the all-American, girly girl, we can consider Bradshaw’s binary in opposition to be Juno MacGuff, the accidentally impregnated 16 year-old from a small town in Minnesota. Far from fabulous, Juno represents the complete foil of Bradshaw. Juno is tomboyish, vulgar, outspoken and anything but ladylike. Her fashion sense is incomparable to that of Bradshaw’s, and in general, Juno hardly matches up to the symbols we identify with Bradshaw. Once we are able to mentally capture an image of Bradshaw and what she epitomizes, no longer is she the successful columnist with impeccable fashion sense. She is now a representation; a symbol.