Final Reflective Essay–Adam Beaty

What should I say about this class? Well, I suppose I learned how to interact with people in a group setting under extreme duress and completely running on empty in terms of sleep. Though, this class didn’t nearly stretch me to my boundaries for sleep deprivation—that little honor belongs a to a mock trial style class that I took last semester. I definitely learned a lot about the Enlightenment. I learned about gender roles, so many gender roles, oh so many gender roles. I have found that nearly everything during the Enlightenment was in some way influenced by perceptions of gender. Witches, education, sexuality, politics, the list is endless. There is absolutely nothing I could think of that could possibly be more fitting a topic for the final conference. If I take nothing else away from this class, my interest was piqued by its focus on gender roles.

Another thing that I learned was the value of knowledge. Going back to the question posed so eloquently by Professor Gavin at the beginning of the semester, “Is ignorance bliss?” With all of the topics that we have covered in this course, I would have to say that my answer would be a firm no. On the individual level ignorance may well be bliss, but on the collective level this logic falters. Ignorance combined with differences leads to ill treatment between fellow human beings. As they spot the differences in one another, they begin to categorize; as they categorize, they feel the need to oppress, to praise their own idiosyncrasies while oppressing their brethren for their unique characteristics. Ignorance satisfies the individual, but it murders the population. Seeing ignorance in such a way, I can see how it lasted as long as it did. Someone would be hard-pressed to stop doing an activity that makes them feel good, regardless of the consequences for others. As I move on in my life, I hope to shed my own ignorance to create not only a better individual, but a better piece of my community as a whole: the world. In the end, aren’t we all just one body made up of small, unique parts?

Editors’ List for Essays to Be Published Online

Hello everyone, this is your friendly neighborhood editor, Adam. Here is the list of essay writers that we have chosen to publish. Remember that we need a finished draft by Dec. 6 for all whose proposals have been chosen. Chosen ones, DO NOT FORGET THIS DATE!  Anyway, here it is for all:

Ja’Nae Miata

Tommy Merritt

Trey Capps

Andie Tompros

Much happiness on your Thanksgiving vacation!

❤ ❤

Adam

An Educated Man

Wake up in the morning bright and early

Fight morning rush traffic toward USC

The drivers psychotic, pedestrians bold

Come class time, I find out the teacher cancelled

 

And what’s the price? 

Boatload of money a year and part of my life.

Screw the good man, Flannery

A smart man is hard to find.

Or so they say, I don’t know what to believe

The college president says that I’m doing the right thing.

 

Why am I here, and why should I care?

I just want law school, life isn’t that fair.

When will I need Spanish, Asian History, or Descartes?

I won’t finish paying this off till I’m an old fart.

 

An educated man, postgraduate pauper

Part of the plan

I’ll have that J.D., but I’ll be living off ramen and Spam. 

What’s the price of knowledge?

Better life, you cannot call it.

Adam, go to college.

A ton of money bought that. 

And that’s swell

Take the money; tell the students to go to hell.

I was walking down the Horseshoe,

Hit a brick and tripped and fell.

Will college be worth all this money and strife?

But the quest for meaning of life comes at a large price. 

 

Note: Stanzas 1 and 3 are ballads, just to make sure you guys know that. 

Maybe It Doesn’t Mean Anything, Richardson!

I don’t believe art’s focus is on improving society. I believe it enhances our awareness of the world and gives us different perspectives, but I don’t think it’s goal should be to improve society. Just because it enhances our awareness doesn’t always mean that it is good for society; either way so, it’s still art.

My ideas directly oppose Richardson’s musings on the purpose of art. He writes, “If in a Picture the Story be well chosen, and finely Told (at least) if not Improv’d, if it fill the Mind with Noble, and Instructive Ideas, I will not scruple to say ‘tis an excellent picture” (Discourse I 13). Richardson’s view to moralizes and politicizes art. He thinks art must further mankind’s knowledge and morals. I don’t think art should have to fill the mind with noble ideas. Why must it instruct and improve? Why can’t it simply exist while we admire its existence?

I will first review the song “Subdivisions,” by Rush. It addresses issues of social alienation. It exposes subdivisions within society. The word “subdivisions” can also be suggested to have a sexual connotation dealing with cultural acceptance through sex. Heavy emphasis is placed on synth in the solos and rhythm. The focus on the synth implies a mechanical and callous attitude taking over society. Our move toward electronic machines to musically express ourselves runs parallel to our rigid social structures. I enjoy this work because of the alienating nature of the instruments. It defines our modern era; it presents a concentrated form of the technological/social movement in the 1980s and beyond.

I think my interpretation reinforces the definition of art as enhancing awareness, but I cannot say that the song is trying to improve society. “Subdivisions” may critique social structures, but it also may be praising them. Thus, it boils down to personal interpretation. Given the song’s ambiguous allegiances, Richardson would struggle to fit it into his model of instruction and improvement

The other piece I’ll review is the £10 Banksy Note. This is a £10 note slightly modified by the artist Banksy. The Queen is replaced by Princess Diana, and the words “Bank of England” changed to “Banksy of England.” I think this piece can enhance our awareness of the convergence of art and commercialism. It shows how society has corporatized art.

This work bothered me because of its shameless copying of artists like Duchamp and Warhol. There was likely little time invested in it, and I tend to view Banksy as an attention hog, rather than a good artist.

I think Richardson would disagree with my unenthusiastic response. While he would blast Banksy for lack of creativity, he would love the instruction the work supposedly gives. He would be upset about this convergence of art and commercialism, but he would believe the copying of other artists to be necessary. He would see it as an important element in expressing the dry culture of the art/commercialism hybrid. If Banksy’s note sends a warning to everyone, Richardson might believe the convergence could be reversed.

Richardson, Two Discourses

https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/richardson-two-discourses-i.pdf

I’ll Get You Elizabeth, and Your Little Pig Too!

I chose the trial of Jane Kent for study. Tried June 1, 1682, she was charged with practicing witchcraft and using it to murder Elizabeth Chamblet. Elizabeth’s father is the complainant in the case. He states that the problem started when a transaction fell through between him and Kent. Afterward, he believed that she cursed his pig, causing it to become ill. Soon, Elizabeth fell ill as well and died. Worried about his wife, he took various clippings from her to be “tested” for bewitchment. As he boiled the clippings, he claimed to have heard Kent scream outside his door. Chamblet also presented “eyewitnesses” also claiming to be victims of Kent’s witchery.

Kent denied all Chamblet’s testimony. She presented herself as a churchgoing woman who “lived honestly.” In the end, the jury ruled that Kent was not guilty.

I was actually amazed by the outcome of this trial. Despite the overwhelming “evidence” against Kent, the jury found her not guilty. This led me to dwell more upon the views of witchcraft accusations in this era. I concluded that though the court acknowledged these cases, accusations of witchcraft possessed a diminishing weight among the people. A common contemporary perception would be that, as Ankarloo and Clarke say, “denial of witchcraft is the devil’s work.” However, the jury’s verdict shows that these accusations may not have been taken as seriously from a legal standpoint. Though the government had to act, the people saw through the accusations. What would have in earlier times been deemed concrete evidence of witchcraft has less power in the late 17th century. This is not to say that witchcraft was not taken seriously—Ankarloo and Clarke certainly prove there was plenty of ostracizing done on the account of witchery in the era. I simply believe that religion forced society to acknowledge potential witchcraft cases, but society was not so easily compelled to punish for it. I would posit that this may have been a transitional period for social perceptions about witchcraft.

The sad truth is that this is likely the contrivance of an emotionally distraught man. After losing a deal and his daughter, he sought an object of blame, using witchcraft to exact vengeance on Kent. He wouldn’t find material gain in the endeavor; the emotional reward would be enough. Witchcraft accusations historically have required relatively little solid evidence for conviction—eyewitnesses would do.

H. Lewis Scaife asserts that “[s]uperstition generally decreases in proportion to mental development” (42). He associates superstition with a savage, undeveloped mentality, presenting various inferior cultures worldwide as proof of this claim. Countless Enlightenment commentators would agree. David Hume stated superstition developed from “ignorance of natural causes” (Ankarloo and Clarke 202). Lack of knowledge births superstition. The common perception is that, as understanding increases, superstition will die. To philosophers like Hume, Hobbes, and others, rampant superstition indicated a collective lack of knowledge. Understandably, this societal intelligence deficit, coupled with the terror superstition wrought, created much animosity toward superstition among the philosophical community.

Works Cited:

Scaife, Hazel Lewis. A True Ghost Story, or Three Nights in a Haunted House and a Brief Sketch of Superstition. Louisville, KY: Press of R. H. Carothers, 1895.

Ankarloo, Bengt, and Stuart Clark. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Vol. 5. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999.

Jane Kent Trial

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t16820601a-11&div=t16820601a-11&terms=magick|witch|witchcraft|sorcery|enchantment|spell#highlight

Artificiality of the Ideal: Swift Viewed through Gender Hermeneutics

After reading Jonathan Swifts two poems, “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and “A Beautiful Nymph Going to Bed,” and “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” by Judith Butler, I gained a greater understanding about how Swift would have viewed gender. The poems shatter common views of gender ideal. Viewed from Butler’s perspective, the poems are revolutionary in how they show the artifice of the “female” ideal and raise questions about how natural the “natural woman” or “natural man” really is.

“Nymph” is about a London prostitute named Corinna, who embodies the ideal form of a woman. She is referred to as the “Pride of Drury-Lane” and a “lovely Goddess.”As she is about to go to bed, she removes all the attachments and inserts she uses to appear beautiful. The poem shows how beauty is acquired, how the ideal concept of female is unnatural. I believe Swift was trying to show that the “natural woman,” to use Butler’s choice of words, is pure artifice. Even the most lusted after women like Corinna must resort to artifice to attain true femininity. Swift’s poem argues that women themselves must strive to maintain womanhood, lest they be perceived as masculine. Humans work to be “natural” when, in fact, they are copying a copy. They mimic another’s mimicry, creating an endless piling up of signifiers with no origin. Gender is very much social in this respect.

“Lady’s Dressing Room” maintains Swift’s argument from “Nymph.” A woman fails to meet a man’s expectations for what a woman should be like. When he finds out how much work she puts into her appearance, he abandons her. True beauty, he believes, does not require artifice. Swift, however, takes the stringent requirements of gender a step further. We do not simply hold ourselves to a gender standard; society ostracizes those who fall outside the confines of gender. This relates to Butler’s statement that mimetic practice like female beauty maintenance creates the “illusion of inner sex . . . or psychic gender core. Once this thinking establishes a gender ideal, the corresponding sex is hard-pressed to escape societal expectations. Both of Swifts poems expose the extremely social nature of gender norms and artificiality of gender ideals. Without doubt, Swift realized how his works portrayed gender as an unstable concept maintained through role-play.

Two of Butler’s points helped me understand gender. First is the idea that mimetic practice is crucial to gender. Gender isn’t “self-identical,” as Butler states. Instead, a person’s gender is shaped by similar genders around it. Secondly, I liked her point that genders are solidified through model repetition. Gender must be constantly redefined to “establish the illusion of uniformity” (Butler). Like Butler, I think gender is fluid, not directly tied to one’s biological sex. Furthermore, heterosexuality and homosexuality are subject to the same thought process. I believe both exist in relation to one another, but any identifiable origin point is lacking. To survive, they both must be repeated to create the illusion of concreteness.

“The Lady’s Dressing Room” by Jonathan Swift

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/1024-swift-the-ladys-dressing-room-1732/

“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” by Jonathan Swift

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/1024-jonathan-swift-a-beautiful-young-nymph-going-to-bed-1734/

Imitation and Gender Insubordination by Judith Butler

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/1022-judith-butler-imitation-and-gender-insubordination/

Enlightenment: Why Am I Thinking about This Again? Or Am I?

Is enlightenment achievable? That’s a difficult question. We have looked at a variety of texts over the course of this class, all of them defining enlightenment in their own ways. For this article post I looked at four articles. Of course, I looked at the assigned articles by Descartes and La Mettrie. Additionally, I used Kant and Locke to come to my final decision on the question of achieving enlightenment. Given my findings, I cannot in good conscience say that true enlightenment is attainable.

I will begin by discussing how my decision relates to La Mettrie. “I’m not going to make any guesses and will treat anything that my senses don’t perceive as though it were an impenetrable mystery,” he says. To him, enlightenment is making decisions and forming opinions on the things that he fully understands, withholding judgement when information is incomplete or not fully understood. While in theory this is possible, in practice, it is completely impossible. In many daily instances, humans must make decisions based on incomplete information. They must make “educated guesses” on a regular basis, never truly and fully understanding any situation. This incapability of instituting a practical enlightenment was one of the main reasons that I entirely doubt its possibility.

Descartes had a view of enlightenment similar to that of La Mettrie, albeit with a more religious spin. He thought that enlightenment—and thus avoidance of sin—is possible through withholding judgement when presented with a lack of information. This imbalance between the will and the intellect “is the source of [his] error and sin” (Descartes). Once the scope of the will is equally matched to the intellect, one has attained enlightenment and no longer needs to withhold judgement. The same problem with La Mettrie rears it ugly head in Descartes: Withholding judgement in life is easier said than done. Situations are not always as clear as we want them to be, and sometimes we cannot afford not to make a decision.

Kant presents an interesting digression from the others I have discussed. Descartes and La Mettrie focus on enlightenment as a choice of information. Contrastingly, Kant focuses on the source of this information as the definition of enlightenment. To Kant, enlightenment is “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage,” a more socially focused view of enlightenment. Enlightenment is reliance on oneself, rather than others, to make proper choices. Once man learns to think independently, he has entered a state of enlightenment.

Kant’s independent thinker version of enlightenment, in practical terms, is easily attainable given the proper environment. However, I disagree that enlightenment is solely focused on independence. I think that he focuses too much on independence and not enough on the information being chosen. As far as defining enlightenment goes, I agree more with Descartes’ and La Mettrie’s information-focused definition—ignoring the fact that these forms of enlightenment are entirely impossible.

Finally, I examined Locke. His definition was entirely focused on the social aspect of enlightenment. Locke’s enlightenment was an adherence to societal norms and rules of propriety. “Virtue. . . is the hard and valuable part to be aim’d at in education,” Locke says. I couldn’t see this enlightenment as something that supposedly ends in a cultivation of the intellect. Locke’s enlightenment relies too heavily on social values.

Each of these works contributed to my idea of enlightenment, also showing the inherent problems with attaining enlightenment. I see enlightenment as the use of all available information to properly make decisions, as asserted by Descartes and La Mettrie. It is the withholding of judgement when sufficient information isn’t available—a disparity between the will and the intellect, to use Descartes’ word choice. It is also an independence of the thought processes, drawing from Kant. Locke showed me the problems with an entirely socially focused definition of enlightenment. No two authors were in complete agreement. Descartes and La Mettrie were at odds on whether religion should play a role in our perception of the intellect and the will. Locke and Kant were at opposite ends of the spectrum in definition: Kant believed in complete independence; Locke believed in complete social assimilation. Descartes and La Mettrie represent the information-based approach to enlightenment while Locke and Kant look at a socially focused definition.

Unfortunately, my interpretation of enlightenment is completely unattainable. Enlightenment is an ideal to strive toward, but I don’t think that it is a realistic goal. It drives us, but we shouldn’t expect to reach it. It is this goal, however, that propels us toward progress.

La Mettrie

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/1008-julien-offray-de-la-mettrie-man-a-machine/

Descartes Meditations 1 & 4

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/1008-rene-descartes-meditations-1-4/

Locke

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/john-locke-some-thoughts-concerning-education-1692-part-iv/

Kant

https://engl382fall2013.wordpress.com/readings/00-previous-readings/what-is-enlightenment/