I’m glad I presented first, because every presentation from our class was a tough act to follow. The amount of thought, time, and effort each group put into their work was clearly evident, as was the importance of things in each presentation. Again and again we return to the idea that we open our eyes to objects as things when they fail to perform their expected functions. In class, those objects were the projector, speakers, and computers used in the electronic presentations. When the class computer failed to perform its expected role, the chain of events and order of presentations were disrupted, and only when its function was restored could some groups complete their goals. The very functionality of the equipment affected our perspective of the presentations, such as the low audio of John’s video. The speaker’s inability to provide us our desired audio level forced us to react, as our entire class shifted forward, bringing our desks with us in order to get closer to the sound. The video was influenced not only by the computer’s ability to translate to the projector, but the projector’s ability to replicate that image. Once translated, the projector sent out light that was influenced by dust particles in the air, and this sheet of light blended with the impure white screen in order to create the actual image which our eyes interpreted into what we saw. Before taking this class, I would have likely never considered the importance of something as seemingly insignificant as dust particles in the air in crafting a visual presentation. But in class they seemed impossible to ignore, as group after group blatantly stated the importance of even the smallest of things in our lives. To me, beyond the apparent skilled rhetoric and creativity of the projects, my awareness of the dust in the air signified the success of these presentations.
While writing my paper analyzing Bisclavret, among other texts, I found an article that brought up some interesting thoughts about the symbolism of the removal of his clothing by his wife:
Premodern English society was based on a courtly system where the King reigned, Queen on arm, followed and supported by a tightly-knit group of knights who were completely devoted to him. These knights bore his insignia and fought his battles in return for land, money, and other bounty that was given in a gift-economy as a reward for their loyalty. In Bisclavret,the removal of this clothes does not only force him into his animal form, it removes his human form and this his insignia, identity, and ability to bear arms in honor of his King. Because he is unable to perform his knightly duties, his animal existence then becomes shameful because he is forced to be absent from the court for an entire year.
However, he is able to gain some of his pride back as he is able to show the king by licking his boots that he is in servitude to him and therefore has a rational mind. He then becomes the King’s loyal companion, accompanying him everywhere, able to protect him as he would in his human form.
When the wiseman realizes that Bisclavret must have attacked his wife for a reason and her torture leads to her admittance that she took Bisclavret’s clothes and the wolf before them is in fact him, he is given back his clothes. This return of the clothing allows him to return to his human form but he will not put them on. The wiseman, ever wise, suggests that he to do so in front of the king would be shameful. There are two possible reasons that he will not put on the clothes in front of the King and the court. The first is that by doing so he proves that he is in fact a hybrid and the removal of his clothes will turn him back into an animal, thus making him vulnerable again in the same way that he foolishly did to his wife by telling her his secret. The second, is that because he has been so shamed in the year that he was unable to fulfill his role as a knight that he fears returning to his human form where he can be blamed for his absence.
This idea ties the clothes together with humanity and the insignia that ties the knight to the king, all of which would function well in an object oriented approach.
While researching an essay for another class, I came upon a miscellaneous document by Joseph Conrad that connects quite well with Jane Bennett’s “Edible Matter” chapter. The essay, which is actually the introduction of his wife Jessie’s cook book, describes the the art of “good cooking” as a “moral agent” (146). And, in a very edible matter-esque description, Conrad describes good food as:
“[t]he intimate influence of conscientious cooking by rendering easy the process of digestion promotoes the serenity of mind, the graciousness of though, and that indulgent view of our neighbors’ failings which is the only genuine form of optimism. Those are its titles to our reverence” (147).
This description truly made me think of how food is part of a massive assemblage that ultimately manifests its effects in myriad ways, but most importantly, it can influence how we feel.
Moreover, Conrad —in utilizing rather absurd pseudo-scientific claims— instists that the Native American Indians acquired their “sombre and excessive ferocity” from “perpetual indigestion,” which he argued was because their “wives had not mastered the art of conscientious cooking” (147).
given this description of Food, from Conrad, and Marion’s post on Virginia Woolf, it seems like there may have been more thoughts about the vibrance of matter and the fallacy of modernism going on than we would like to think. Reading essays like this make me believe that perhaps recent work in OOO and Actor-Network theory is actually giving a name to something that has long been thought about?
For further reading, the book and chapter is:
Conrad, Joseph. “Cookery.” Last Essays. Ed. Richard Curle. Freeport: Books for Libraries, 1970. 146-148. Print.
I found Erin’s presentation, “The Writing’s on the Skin – The Medieval Agency of Animals” particularly provocative in light of the recent shift towards electronic texts. While Dr. Seaman and her fellow tech savvy Medievalists seem immune to it, many of us loyal print readers are feeling extreme anxiety over the shift. I agree with Erin’s assertion that when we engage in a text we also (if inadvertently) engage with the materials through which the text is communicated. Loosening binding, yellowing pages, even dog-eared corners add a sense of community to our reading of a text, an awareness of a shared experience (an assemblage, even). I imagine that engagement is even more intimate with paper as raw and organic as animal parchment, print as personal as handwriting.
I do not, though, quite feel that this gives the animal of the parchment, or even the scribe of the handwriting, much additional agency. For while they enrich the text with their own texture and style, they are ultimately tools for communicating the ideas of the text. Their most powerful influence over our reading (as I’m sure Bill Brown would agree) is the occasional disruptive, negative influence, the interference with our intentions for them. The parchment may rip or blot, the handwriting smudge. Otherwise, they seem to obey the command to communicate. While it’s a romantic notion that an animal’s agency transfers to its hide, I’m afraid it’s stripped and appropriated to suit the text. Erin presented our class with an interesting topic that we’re debating as a literary community today!
I have to be honest, currently my life is a series of tasks–things I must get done in order to accomplish life-long goals. Of course, I don’t mind this at all and I know it’s only temporary. However, situations can get a little taxing at times (as I write this I see the clock spurting towards 8 pm and I’ve only just begun after completing a different project for another class). It is when the going gets tough that I rely on my own assemblage the most. Disclaimer: I know there are elements of this assemblage that I am probably entirely unaware of, so let’s keep with what I deliberately put together in my knapsack of magic:
-My iPhone, my iPad, and my MacBook Air. Yes, I have and need all three. I am a big supporter of Apple Inc because I think that they have the best products, and Steve Jobs is a personal hero of mine. When I’m in a tight spot I easily have access to all of my email addresses’ inboxes and my calendars on my iPhone. If I were a knight, my iPhone would my dagger. It is small, but when wielded correctly it can be very powerful. (Siri is my magical fairy that goes and retrieves things for me).
-My red book bag. I hate this bag and I would rather not talk about it–I am so tired of carrying around hundreds of pounds of books in it. But, like an ugly pilgrimage coat, it is pretty vital to my survival. This bag carries everything for me and even keeps my technology gadgets dry in times like that torrential downpour I walked several blocks in on Monday night.
-My loafers. I have walked hundreds of miles in those. They didn’t quite fit at first, but you can believe they have molded to my feet by now.
-And, finally, in my assemblage I have my values that guide all my actions (including why I have chosen the above items in particular).
After reading Marion’s post on Virginia Woolf and Bruno Latour, I began to draw a connection between the work of Ian Bogost and Joseph Conrad’ Heart of Darkness. One of the main characteristics that brings these two together is the idea of a picture in a picture.
Throughout “Seeing Things” Bogost discusses the idea of a “flattening” of ontological differences when one looks at a picture through a picture, and this idea seemed to be a rather salient force throughout H of D, since Marlow’s tale is being told through another unnamed narrator; in essence, a narrative in a narrative. This concept immediately made me think of the H of D narrative as Mise en abyme —a French term that describes a type of frame story, in which the core narrative can be used to illuminate some aspect of the framing story. Therefore, by approaching the narrative in such a manner, I began to think about the immense possibilities that could arise in terms of viewing Heart of Darkness through a OOO lens.
If there is any modernist writing that could be more deserving, H of D seems more than worthy for the application of an object-oriented reading. Conrad’s novel inundates the reading with immense sense impressions, and in the process he exposes the reader to some of the purest examples of things without an inherent purpose. Things appear helter-skelter throughout the novel merely for their theatricality, but what else can we infer from their presence? How do they change the narrative in any way shape or form?
Ultimately, it seems like an OOO approach would bring forth some interesting speculation on a text that has been analyzed to death. Moreover, I think it could reveal a very complex ontological arrangement that almost parallels the work I am doing in my own final essay —that is things through a picture in a picture.
The NBA season is back thanks to the two sides (players and owners) working out the decimals and figuring out a fair way to split billions of dollars. Thank goodness! I bet all of the workers at the various basketball stadiums around the country sure are glad they came to a resolution. Anyway, griping aside, basketball is a great team game that I thought would be a cool to look at through the lens of ANT.
5 basketball players are on the court for one team, with a coach on the sideline and bench players as well. Basketball is different then other sports because the fans are literally mere inches from the floor in which the players play on. The players have no helmets to hide their faces, no pads to protect themselves. Every emotion is caught by not only the fans in the stands, but also by the HD cameras and millions of people back home.
Basketball is the ultimate team game. A team can’t win a championship with three superstars (i.e. the 2010-11 Miami Heat), a team can’t win a championship with one star either and no bench production (i.e. 2010-11 Chicago Bulls). Instead it takes a full team with a superstar, but also role players, bench guys, sharp shooters, a smart coach, and defense. The 2010 Dallas Mavericks had all those things and they formed such a network that while down by 17 points in the third quarter against the talented and superstar loaded Heat, they stormed back to win the game and ride that momentum to a title.
Dirk Nowitzki was the superstar of the team, with Jason Kidd as a key role player, J.J. Barea provided a spark off the bench, and Jason Terry was the sharp shooter. Rick Adelman made all the right substitutions and play calls and Tyson Chandler brought the defense. These players, this team, formed a network that allowed them to win the championship.
I LOVED the presentations this week. I think that it is so awesome that we all came into the class with little or no knowledge about object oriented approaches and now we can all successfully apply the theories and ideas to things outside of the classroom and academic world. The creative project was a daunting task looming in the future when we first started talking about it but I’m really happy that we did it. Not only do I think it was a great way to prove to ourselves that we really have understood and learned a lot about object oriented approaches but it was also great to see all the different ways that a critical approach could be presented. I know that I’m so use to writing essays that it was really hard for me to think outside of that box. After seeing other projects this week though I realized just how far you can step outside of the box. I was completely wowed by Viktor’s interpretation of the pop culture figure, Lady Gaga. This approach was totally unexpected and outside the normal confines of an English class but he definitely illustrated the “thingness” of Lady Gaga and her action within an assemblage. I also loved Autumn’s idea of rewriting the lais with an emphasis on the objects.
The first couple weeks in this class people would ask me what it was about and I really didn’t know how to explain it because sometimes I wasn’t even that sure what the class was really about. Now I’m intrigued with the idea of an object oriented approach not just within literature but allowing it to be applied to all areas of life. I’m also excited that now when someone asks me about the class and I can explain it in a way that they understand. I have to say that this class was really challenging and I’m certainly not looking forward to the final exam but so far it is definitely the best English class I’ve taken.
As you go through life, it’s inevitable that you compose in your mind an explanation for the world around you, and how it functions. These theories can take many forms, spanning from religion-based perspectives to theories that what seems real is actually artificial, as conceptualised in The Matrix and The Truman Show. The notion that I’ve been turning over in my mind recently is that “life” (or “the universe”) expects you to know all the factors and consequences involved in an action before it happens. If you are unaware of something that changes your situation, then the question of whether or not that thing is your responsibility becomes moot, as its effects are felt regardless. For example, if you take a holiday abroad this winter break, you may book a return flight for December 22nd, to ensure that you’re home for Christmas. However, if too much snow falls in the place you’re visiting, or if the airplane staff spontaneously decide to strike, then your flight may be cancelled, leaving you stranded. In which case, it’s like life is looking at you, puzzled, thinking “if they wanted to leave this country before Christmas, why didn’t they prepare for the snow and strikes?”
However, object-oriented theory has shown me that life doesn’t simply throw you curveballs, expecting you to be able to knock them out of the park, even without a bat. Instead, there are countless actants in each situation, making life neither random nor planned, but instead an extremely complicated and ever-changing assemblage. Whereas the former theory, though anthropocentric, leaves the human near-helpless against overwhelming universal forces, object-oriented approaches reveal that people have partial agency, just like all other actants in their assemblage. Without this one force controlling all other actants in your life, the idea that the universe is against you, or that you have an inevitable destiny, becomes spurious and unhelpful. The alternative notion that there are innumerable actants in all situations allows you to see life not as a battle against fate, but as a complex collection of assemblages. With this perspective comes acceptance that you must control the things you can, and, if possible, appreciate the humour in the things you can’t, because, as a certain blue-eyed crooner once said, that’s life.
Jane Bennet redefines materiality in her book, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Vibrant matter, she proposes, “is not the raw material for the creative activity of humans or God;” it has an existence of its own (xiii). Vibrant matter reclaims its materiality, and resists being objectified (defined in relation to a human subject). Shedding its objectivity, the new “thing” regains “a liveliness intrinsic to the materiality” (xvi). Bennett restores a material’s inherent agency – what she calls “thing power” (6). Agency, an ability to affect, is accompanied by “[a] capacity to be affected” (21). The power of materiality is not self contained, it participates in a “coexistence of mutual dependency with friction and violence between parts”: an assemblage (23). Bennett’s exciting concept of vibrant matter will guide my first reading of Sir Launfal. Tryamour, Sir Launfal’s fairy lover, is closely associated with lavish materiality. Whereas such an association seemingly objectifies her, I will use Bennett’s notion of thing-power to argue that materiality empowers her and secures her a position of power in a materialistic assemblage in which she has the most influence and allies.
Queer Theory redefines and reclaims the term “queer” like Vibrant Materialism does matter. David Savran explains that Queer Theory operates on a definition of queer that “signifies less a fixed identity than a principle of polysemy” (57). Queer no longer refers to a specific sect of sexual deviance, that is, but to an entire spectrum of underrepresented cultures, races, genders, and sexual orientations. This is, indeed, quite a claim, and I will test the limits of “queering” (the act of illuminating the fluidity of this spectrum) in Sir Launfal. Gender instability is apparent in the almost authoritative influence that Guenevere and Tryamour have over Arthur and Launfal (suggesting a gender role reversal in each relationship). Class is also represented as a fluctuating station in life, as Launfal’s good service goes unpaid and he descends into poverty (emasculating him in the process), while Guenevere’s ignoble behavior goes completely unpunished. Launfal’s eventual class restoration and Guenevere’s final humiliation suggests, though, that such stations in life are ultimately destined and re-secured by a social code – hardly a queer message. Race and culture is ambiguously represented in both Launfal and Tryamour. As a foreigner in Arthur’s kingdom, Launfal is easily (and, presumably, understandably) ostracized by court decorum and law. Tryamour’s mythical ethnicity (she is a fairy) makes her, oddly enough, both vulnerable and threatening. Though she must conduct her love and gift giving in self-conscious secrecy, once exposed she expresses her entitlement to her love, wealth, and beauty. Though she is marginalized by Arthur’s court, it is because of her superiority to it, not inferiority. Each instance of straying from the norm can be considered an instance of “queering.” So whereas Guenevere does not quite explicitly accuse Launfal of being homosexual as she does in Lanval, she finds other ways of “queering” him that are just as demeaning (considering the medieval, premodern understanding of homosexuality).