2:00 class (by Joseph McKinley)
Monday, Nov. 28—
We read the “Nature” chapter from Theory Toolbox. Reminders were made (like our proposal being due this coming Tuesday). This day we received our grades for our annotated bibliographies as well as feedback. We were all reminded that it is most important to find out from our future professors what it is that they would like and expect to find in annotations of working bibliographies (hard-summary, your views, &c.). We were told that beginning in the last five years Nature has taken a center stage and become a key / central concern in humanities studies. We were asked how it is that Nature is theorized. –We perceive nature (not inevitably, but…) as an inconvenience (bad weather (inherently bad?), rain (right for everything but our runny makeup), are earthquakes inherently terrible or are they terrible because they mess-up all our structures? (after all, they are “natural”, &c.). And it is done always subconsciously—there is a concept of Nature. So our beliefs run from Nature being antagonistic to it being harmonious, to be attained and be with for harmony—but Nature is just as cultural as everything else (imagine if being clothed was of no major importance to our society and it was super-hot all the time and we didn’t judge drenched people’s appearances thereof; a rainy day could be a great day to go out about town). A big important tree: The Angel Oak, for instance: there is not the tree itself, but the concept of the tree. Also, we do not have an idea about Nature and then respond, but they are intertwined—what you want to do as a culture shapes your views (we don’t think that trees are there to take down to lay foundation or to grow and take down to make paper for books, but we want books and we want places to read them (as well as a few places for a few other things, naturally) and so trees become a tool in our eyes, or an obstruction in certain instances. And Nature is an ideological thing—Nature as outside of us (we are here, Nature is there—a split between Nature and Civilization); and this notion is used all the time. And too, saying that something is Natural declares it timeless, unchangeable, and immutable. Everything that we set apart from civilization is Wild life. To say that a way is the natural way is to say it is the good way—easily a mode of justification. And these associations are not inherent (or natural), but we perceive Nature the way we do because that is how we’ve constructed it to be seen. We call upon Nature to justify things; something natural is something commonsensical. And how does this change our ethics, our ways in which our conceptions of nature can influence ethical decisions? Don’t we feel some sort of responsibility to give our care to animals that we see communicating with one another (like dolphins) though we cannot successfully, verbally, communicate with them. Or how about the case against strict veganism or vegetarianism, where “it is natural to eat meat” as “humans are naturally meat-eaters”? This sits with the green food movement, where small organic farms are talked up against big corporate chemical food farms—and though there is definitely a social, anti-corporation motive behind such a movement, the organic, buy local farming movement is outwardly promoting ‘natural’ to give it superiority—because ‘natural’ sells. To see a same sex couple of animals that love one another intimately is very threatening to “anti” people, because it is occurring in the Wild. Then we talked about the Mediaeval notion of God’s will in the government (or, Nature was ordered by God), and then Hobbes’ brutish view of nature, and then Rousseau’s calling for Nature to be more ruling. Now, unlike the Mediaeval conception, Nature is chaotic—we control it so it won’t overpower and control us (a Hobbesian notion). We ultimately need Nature to be utilitarian. Even a hike, for it to be fully enjoyed, requires the natural setting to have some aesthetic quality for us. Nature must be beautiful for us. It must produce for us—and not only materially. Then we talked about disenchantment (something that came up in the beginning of the Wife of Bath’s tale), in which the wonder is taken out—i.e. the disenchantment of this modern life (but not only or always). It is our saying that someone is being treated like an animal when they are being treated inhumanely. Thus, unjust is inhuman. Then we talked about Cohen and how he flattens the hierarchy of being. And then we dispersed!
Wednesday, Nov 30—
We were asked to fill out evaluations and we went over the “Agency” chapter in TT. Again we are reminded that our proposal is due soon. We talked about power, and not the Marxist top-down power structure, where the few rule the many, but we looked at how power is disbursed—like Dr. Seaman’s holding power in the classroom, but her power still being completely dependent on the fact that there are such things as students who take classes and complete assignments and receive grades. One cannot do anything in a society that does not acknowledge them. We have agency when we are forced to act (which gives us a very free range in a society that has cultural and societal norms, infused with expectations and formations). Then we looked at how if the Canon (literary) were birthed today, it would not so much embrace universality, but would be representative of all different cultures, &c.. And what is lost and sacrificed when universalism isn’t the goal?—when we don’t look to literature solely for the meaning of the human condition or to just see Great Art? And where are we going? Think about it—it’s on the plate for Monday.
Civilized (notion of…)
Nature / Natural
“We don’t just have a blank slate” –Shaina (imagine making society as it grew…)
“Any action is better than stagnancy” –Zach
—Agency depends on something.
“GO US!” –Shaina
—Meaning is context dependent.
3:20 class (by Austin Heustess)
Read agency as conclusion to theory toolbox
Nature and animals as part of nature:
235 second sentence: As we shall see…from each other.
230: In the first sense…humanity.
233: We observe…status quo.
235-236: In the Middle ages…out of chaos.
The political…human stability.
Rousseu insists…alleged benefits.
“We should note quickly…objectively out there.”
238-“Surely one result….needs and desires.”
244- “For social Darwinist…solidarity.”
Free market operates in the same way as evolution. By intervening we slow down the evolution and some loses are inevitable. We still turn to natural process in order to understand and even guide our behavior in relation to these ideas.
They are our dopplegangers within the system of nature. We use animals to better understand ourselves.
245-“In fact those…plentitude.”
247-“One of the…model.”
Agency: Conclusion chapter. Why? Work against this predetermined, social constructed stuff. We’ve been thinking about thinking and ways we think. “Thinking is great but you should act”
Not just about decoding but finding some way to act on these things. Talked a lot about power. What they want to show opportunities for power within this social construction. Power isn’t lacked by people like us but instead is gotten in ways that are within this social structure
Pg. 205 “Who you are is not a given, but is rather beholden to….and so on”
We aren’t essentially one thing but are rather constructed of multiple influences
“there is no stable or constructed you that is possible within the particular dynamics of how you’re born”
Spectrum of agencies.
How do limitations and restrictions coincide with empowerment and agency
Pg. 195: “Our agency is both constrained and enabled by the contexts we find ourselves.”
We are forced to confront our agency through our interactions with the context…doesn’t force one response but does reduce the number to a particular spectrum.
Empowerment is being put in a position to act not necessarily how you act
Not nihilistic…but imagine an unconstrained existence and what the loss of this socially constructed identity would mean.
201: Foucault “What gives power its hold…it runs through and produces things….a productive network…function is repression.”
Opportunity and possibility. Power is shared throughout the society. Some may have more power but that doesn’t mean it isn’t distributed.
Specific context give meaning to a text.
Move away from the universal and toward meaning in a specific context.