As I’ve noted before I am interested in seeing examples of how object-oriented theory can be applied to more contemporary studies and issues, and the creative responses from some of my peers definitely exhibited some examples of just that. I felt that both projects regarding children’s literature, in play form and written form, worked well in using object-oriented theory within a different medium. Thomas’ k’nex constructions also provided a fun example. I think that Victor’s presentation on Lady Gaga being a prime example of object-oriented theory herself, truly answered my question of how one can assess a modern day art-form using an object-oriented approach. Music videos are one of the more modern forms of media that we have been exposed to, along with current fashion and music, all of which are a part of the video that Victor showed us. I appreciated his presentation because it allowed me to step out of the medieval time period that we’ve been focusing on so strongly in class, and see object-oriented theory based on something so modern.
That being said, I really enjoyed all of the presentations in class and I think that everyone did a great job in creatively intriguing their audience by showing us another way to look at what we’ve been studying this semester. Which is interesting because that is similar to the way the semester started; looking at things in another way than we’re used to. So, thank you everyone for your great presentations.
Since we read “Bisclavret,” specifically the point at which the wife’s nose is removed, I had been thinking about torture in medieval England. Our discussions yesterday regarding vengeance broadened my thoughts to that of torture and law in medieval England. I realize that the lays we’ve been reading do not reflect the true nature of society at that time, but nevertheless, they still led me to ponder those thoughts. In an essay entitled “Torture and Plea Bargaining,” John Langbein states that “the application of torture was a routine and judicially supervised feature of Europea criminal procedure.”
This image depicts a man being tortured by the rack, which is commonly considered as one of the most painful forms of medieval torture usually ending in the dislocation of joints and removal of limbs. This method of torture was used to extract confessions, as the torturer could threaten to stretch the accused further. During my research I did not find any examples of nose removal, further proving that the medieval lays do not accurately depict medieval life, although they do take some commonly held beliefs and practice and exaggerate them.
The topic of distributed agency that Victor brought up in his blog post last week evoked some very interesting discussion in class on Wednesday. We agreed upon the idea that all agency is not created equal, meaning that within some assemblages certain things obtain more agency than others, most likely due to the fact that it has a stronger effect on its surroundings. This statement led us to the idea that the level of agency a thing has is largely based on the way it affects surrounding people or things that are involved in the same assemblage. I could not help but think of the question, If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it still have agency?
I think Bennett would argue that yes, it still does have agency because it is affecting some assemblage that affects another and so on and so forth. But how can we confirm something’s agency if we cannot see its effect on other people or objects? As I said in class, I was under the impression that everything had agency, period. Whether or not it has a visible affect on its assemblage does not matter because even a perceived lack of agency is equally as important as an obvious effect. Needless to say, Wednesday’s class left me quite baffled and I will continue to search for explanations in our text.
While discussing Chevrefoil we noted that, for the lovers, love means suffering. It is also about joy, but the suffering that one must endure to experience joy measures the true value of their love. Harking back to Guigemar, we are reminded of another story in which true love entails suffering. Guigemar must find true love to heal his wound and he is reminded that experiencing true love will be emotionally painful for both himself and his lover. I wonder if suffering is a part of an assemblage that produces love, or if love (or any emotion, for that matter) can be seen through an object-oriented perspective. This is an idea that I’m going to continue applying to our lays throughout the semester.
On a different note, with Halloween’s approach I’ve been thinking a lot about objects’ agency. This is the only time of the year when, for those outside of our class who are not familiar with object-oriented theories, objects come to life with their own agency. It did not really hit me until yesterday when my friend was debating what to dress up as for Halloween. She had to choose between a Chinese take-out box and a hot air balloon. In class, we could easily assign agency to both of those objects, as well as interpret assemblages that they are a part of or products that result from their assemblage. I am going to keep an (object-oriented) eye out this Halloween for the costumes that people dress in, and decipher why they chose to give said objects human agency. Why did my friend choose a take-out box over a hot-air balloon? Did it hold some agency over her like the potato chips Jane Bennett writes of in “Edible Matter”? I am looking forward to seeing objects come to life over Halloween.
I think I share many of my classmates’ sentiment that Jeffrey Cohen’s visit was enlightening in terms of opening our eyes to the extent that OOO and the related theories we’ve been studying apply to our world. I appreciated his feedback on the lay’s we’re studying but I recall one topic from class that I’d like to pursue further. I am pretty sure it was Austin who posed the question regarding object-oriented theories being applied to modern literary studies. Jeffrey then assured us that yes, object oriented theories are being applied to modern literary studies and film in particular.
Looking back at my previous blog posts, it is obvious that I have an interest in applying the theories we have been learning about to contemporary media. I have connected Bruno Latour’s rejection of modernity to the rise in films like “Earth”, and “Oceans”. As well as Bill Brown’s “Thing Theory”, specifically the idea of objects asserting themselves, to Vittorio de Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief”. I also thought of one yesterday during Jeffrey Cohen’s visit. When speaking about the spiritual element of Jane Bennett’s “Vibrant Matter” he claimed that there is infact something deeply spiritual in Bennett’s placement of significance on all things in this world. This immediately reminded me of Pocahontas, especially the scene/song when she enlightens John Smith to the agency of the non-human world.
Although I have found it fairly easy to connect the theories from class to aspects of modern culture, I’d like to see what the actually scholars have to say about this issue.
I was recently watching a stand-up comedy special featuring comedian, Louis C.K. He has this bit about getting fat and regarding Bennett’s properties of Edible Matter, he first agrees with her and then later contradicts himself.
He begins with his jealousy over his skinny friends and his inability to eat “just one doughnut”. He claims he cannot do it, as if the doughnuts hold some type of agency over him. This statement, I thought, was the same as Bennett’s theory that food holds its own agency (as we saw in the potato chip example). This thought is not one experienced only by Louis C.K. and Jane Bennett. I can not even count the endless times I’ve heard someone say “I can not have just one” or “If I start I won’t be able to stop”. This thought of the food having a stronger agency than our own is very common.
However, my question arises because later in his skit, C.K. tells a story in which he goes to a child’s birthday party begrudgingly, but once he sees the tray of cookies, decides that will be his activity for the afternoon. He goes on to explain that when people see him scarfing down cookies he makes a remark like “there’s just something about the cookies” when really it’s the fact that he has no will power to control himself around the sweet treats. He recognizes that he willfully makes a decision to eat the cookies, but then remarks that he has no control or will power to stop after just one. Is it he who is the actor, or the cookies? I get a little confused because his actions to eat the cookies are deliberate, however he claims that his lack of action or control is the reason why he finishes the platter, but he does not attribute any agency to the cookies the way he did earlier in the skit regarding doughnuts. So, I guess my question is in terms of edible matter, is it the food’s agency? or our lack of agency? Is it a mixture of both?
I’ll post a link to the video below. There is a lot of profanity, so be prepared, and I apologize if this offends anyone.
(The views expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the author.)
Sir Degare and Sir Launfal are some of the more mythic lays we’ve read that involve aspects of the real human world and the marvelous mythical world intertwined into the same story. This week’s reading has displayed fairies, dragons, and infinite wealth to name a few of the “imaginary” aspects we’ve seen. I think this blurring of the human and non-human world within the reading can be a great tool to allow us to gain a slightly less anthropocentric perspective.
By attempting to comprehend a setting in which a fairy-knight is the father of a human, as we see in Sir Degare, we can look at the two as equals, as opposed to seeing humans above and everything else below. Even if we do enter the reading with a human-centered perspective, claiming that the human characters are the only real aspects of the story, we must ask ourselves how real can the humans be if they are born of mythical creatures? Once we get past this boundary we can broaden our horizons to recognize everything in the story as an actor of equivalent significance, from Sir Degare’s ageless mother to Sir Launfal’s purse that contains endless amounts of money.
Going over the literary texts in the class, we reiterated that it’s helpful to focus on the concepts that we grasp, as opposed to trying to understand every single sentence of the reading. I have found a practice that is helpful for me is relating the idea to something I’ve seen before, as I did in one of my previous posts about objects asserting themselves in the movie “The Bicycle Thief”.
Although I found this past week’s readings a little more difficult to grasp, I did pick up on Bruno Latour’s rejection of modernity. “Latour puts it later in his Politics of Nature, a pluralistic multiculturalism is always opposed to a homogeneous mononaturalism. We are told that nature is one, but that humans have numerous diverse perspectives on it. Not surprisingly, Latour rejects this modernist vision” (Harman 57). I understand Latour’s stance that nature is not homogenous or stable at all and I think that popular culture is reflecting this idea more and more through the media.
Movies and Television shows such as Planet Earth, Life, and Blue Planet are just a few examples of the way that nature is currently being portrayed. These movies and shows’ sole objective is to show the diversity and the importance of every aspect of the natural world, paying little to no attention to human beings. From microscopic organisms floating in the ocean to the great redwoods of California, these shows aim to reveal the significance of every aspect of nature. They display that nature not only strongly impacts the world, but that it is the world. Nature’s constantly evolving action is what creates the cycle of life. These shows represent the significance of nature so much so that humans, in comparison, seem homogenous and unimportant.
From what I gathered, these shows can work as examples of Latour’s rejection of mononaturalism. That is, if I grasped the concept correctly. If I am way off base, any comments would be helpful and very much appreciated.
Looking back on our discussions from Monday’s class, one object that continually popped up in my mind was money. Whether in the form of land, jewelry, or fine cloth, these objects can only be attained with money. We see this through the actions of Fresne’s mother, Gurun, and his people.
Upon deciding to send her to the abbey, Fresne’s mother leaves her with two specific objects; both of which signify wealth. The mother hopes that the fine cloth swaddling her baby and the golden ring around her arm will indicate her noble heritage and prove that she is special and deserving of good care.
After falling in love with Fresne, Gurun plans on hatching a scheme to court her. The only way that he can see her on a more frequent basis without raising suspicion is by donating land and money to the abbey where she lives. Money is the foundation of their relationship because it is the object that essentially brings these two lovers together. Oddly enough, money is also the object that seemingly ends their relationship as well. When Gurun’s people convince him to marry a woman of nobility, he decides to marry Hazel as opposed to his true love.
The story ends, as we all know, with the mother’s acknowledgment of the fine cloth on the bed. They discover that Fresne is in fact a wealthy noble and all is well. As we discussed in class, Fresne held on to these objects she was found with as an infant because she recognized their significance even as a young girl. Objects of wealth and the representation of nobility seem to be some of the key driving things of this story.
The topic of objects asserting themselves as things has stuck with me since our class on Monday. Although I think I grasped the idea, I wanted to recall something that I could relate the idea to, or something that represented that idea. I thought of references from movies and TV, and while it is fairly easy to argue for any object asserting itself, one movie stood out to me over than the rest because the object in this film is the central character and drives the plot more so than its human counterparts.
Vittorio De Sica’s “Ladri di biciclette” (The Bicycle Thief), takes place in poverty stricken post-World War II Rome. The human protagonist, Antonio Ricci, is unemployed with a wife and two children to support. The only job that he can find requires that he have a bike. After his wife sells their only set of sheets, Antonio acquires a bike and proudly begins his period of employment. We can already see that this bike is more than a mode of transportation, it is his source of pride and his only means of supporting his family. The plot twists on his first day of the job when his bicycle is stolen. What follows is a repetition of disappointing moments. First, the police don’t take the stolen bike seriously and deem it a petty theft. After discovering that the thief has already sold his bike, Antonio hits rock bottom. One of the last scenes of the film shows a hopeless Antonio sitting outside of a crowded football stadium. He cannot take his eyes off of the hundreds of bicycles parked out front, and out of desperation, he decides his only option is to steal one for himself. His pathetic attempt fails almost immediately, though no charges are pressed against him out of pity. The movie ends with a teary eyed Antonio and his son walking away from the scene hand in hand.
We see Antonio begin as a proud employed man, intent on providing for his family, who eventually turns into a miserable character who, out of desperation, acts out against his moral code. This bicycle, a simple object, asserts itself as a thing from the beginning of the movie when it changes Antonio’s life for the better, until the end when he tells his son they will simply starve. The first time I saw this film, the characters’ plight and emotions resonated with me. Now that I am beginning to look at it from a different perspective, I can understand the bike’s important role and how it affects its surroundings.