Esther’s Space- journey through my life

March 30, 2007

Dear Althusser, I will replicate the system. haha

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 11:21 am

Life Beyond St. Rose and the English Major.

Though I’d rather pretend that reality will never come, rationality assures me that, indeed, I will someday need to find myself a (hopefully satisfying) career using my St. Rose English degree. So, I decided to do what any academic would do, I attended a panel discussion on it.

“The reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order.” (1485)

Reproduction of skills for labor power is what the education system is all about. As the representative from the Career Center mentioned, individuals with a degree in English are specifically trained in certain skills, thereby making them and their educations useful for the maintenance and reproduction of current society. However, Althusser also noted that the ISA must also reproduce “submission to the rules of established order.” I don’t think this was absent in the panel discussion on what to do with an English major; in fact, it was simply one of the things that was not said. None of the panelists simply encouraged us to enjoy the education we have worked for and the fun we had receiving it. Instead, every panelist spoke with the assumption that all English majors present would go on eventually become members of the workforce, and thereby contribute directly to the functioning of society. Also, there was an assumption made by all present that the necessary skills for any of the jobs mentioned were obtainable through the education system, not any other method, such as wholly informal apprenticeships.

“Ideological State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by ideology, but they also function secondarily by repression” (1490)  and “the educational apparatus [is] in fact the dominant ideological State apparatus in capitalist social formations” (1494)

Was the panel discussion on the uses of an English degree a repressive activity on the part of the school?  If one could assume that the panelists were averse to the students present pursuing any career except those that depend upon their English degrees, then yes.  Or, perhaps our class being required to attend was a repressive act, because it was a day that I was not normally required to be at school, and while attending was not able to attend to the other activities that I had planned for the day.  So, instead of pursuing various interests, I was forced to be at school and listening attentively to the ideology of the institution of education.  Haha, now that I understand the system, I can destroy it. 

However, uultimately, I am left feeling as if there is no escape from the established system and its ideology. I simply need money to live in this world, I need a job to make this money, and I need specified education to apply for any job.   The system is rather well-formed. Damn it!


March 26, 2007

No Greg, it’s foo-coe, not foe-cat

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 7:29 am

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Picture this: Esther and Greg are released from employment at the holding cell (aka public library) on Friday evening, and walk hand-in-hand towards the bus stop (environmentally friendly….out of necessity), each holding their exciting literary finds of the day. They sit, and he eagerly pulls out his book and flips between the maps depicting something exciting to a select few, I think it was William Wallace’s campaigns in Scotland in 1297 and 1298. She sighs and pulls out her Cambridge Companion to Foucault and opens to the editor’s introduction, only to find that “my introduction issues a warning against general interpretations of Foucault’s work…” (Gutting vii). To begin like this is to be (un)successful throughout.

Perhaps it is because I’m taking a Victorian Lit. class and we have totally done the Foucault thing, but it all seems like tired rhetoric to me.  I think that it obvious that once something is made subversive it is given power in that if it is done, it is defying authority (1648).  Not too much argument there.  Of course we have developed specific discourses to discuss sexuality.  Of course they are not ‘natural’ means of dealing with natural sexuality and are instead toys of language.  What else would they be.  One point where I disagree is that he mentions that discussion of sexuality was commonplace in society until individuals began to curtail it and make it a taboo topic in the  17th century.  Except for the fact that there is the 6th Commandment, “thou shalt not commit adultery” (1660).  While Foucault argues that once people began to regulate sexuality the seemingly simple statement of the 6th Commandment became increasingly hard to understand because it does not specifically look at homosexual or sodomic (is that the proper conjugation?) acts, the fact is that the 6th Commandment intended for one man and one woman to be married and have sexual relations with only each other.  duh.

And, of course, this controlled discourse is still continuing, especially in the schools: as illustrated by this Boston Globe article,  schools are only beginning to recognize the emergence of an beginning to teach about same-sex families.  However, as Foucault stated, it is not only what is being said, but also what is not being said and how it was avoided.  By not having instruction about the same-sex family it continued to view homosexuality as subversive. However, as talked about here, hetero-sexual based sex education in schools may make schools more dangerous for homosexual students-where’s that subversive power at?.

And, the age-old debate about teaching sex in schools: The numerous discourses are evident when it comes to the debate over teaching sex ed. in schools.  It is what is being said, what is not being said, and what others argue should be said that is shaping the current attitudes towards sexuality in America….and for a new approach that is helping to shape this discourse, or, more likely, creating a new one is the UK’s new ideas for reducing teen pregnancy: experimentation with oral sex.  Oh, the discourses go ’round and ’round.

March 21, 2007

David’s “Byron in Italy”

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 8:47 am


Byron & Teresa


Byron in Italy is going nowhere.  There is no action, no development, just a long, halting cantilena hurled by Teresa into the empty air, punctuated now and then with groans and sighs from Byron offstage.  (Disgrace 214)

 David Lorie, much like countless others on the journey of life, has found his path of least resistance.  He has become comfortable with his ways, and seeks to maintain his lifestyle.  Through the course of the novel, he has not changed.  Isn’t that what the novel is supposed to be about; people encountering challenging situations and growing their characters in the process of figuring out how to contend with these challenges?  Isn’t that what life is about, growth?  David, however, does not grow.  Even after the harrowing experiences with Lucy on her farm, he comes back to Cape Town and begins life again as he left off.  He attempts to go after Melanie again, until he is chased away from her.  So, “The streetwalkers are out in numbers; at a traffic light one of them catches his eye, a tall girl in a minute black leather skirt.  Why not, he thinks, on this night of revelations?” (194)


At the conclusion of the novel, David is left with his banjo and the wailing, unfulfilled Teresa.  He is Teresa, and his opera of life is going nowhere.  He is stuck in his mode of living, and finds solace in bemoaning his life more than he would be able to find contentment in actively changing his environment or himself.


It was certainly interesting that David’s opera changed from being accompanied by a full orchestra to just one lone banjo.  The banjo is certainly not a highly operatic instrument.  If I was to imagine an opera with desperation, longing, and unrequited love, I would be expecting ethereal music.  The banjo is not ethereal, instead it is very real, with ‘plunking’ sounds that, for me at least, do not lift spirits to contemplation of high thoughts, but rather contemplate the everyday situation.  It’s home-grown music, for sheesh’s sake.  Here’s star wars (orchestral music, mind you) on banjo:



I was honestly disappointed by David.  Perhaps there is no hope for the individual to recreate himself or even just change a little bit.  I wanted to like him, but instead I hated him throughout.  And then he didn’t even attempt to redeem himself in the end.


March 18, 2007

The Debt Collectors

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 6:50 pm

‘I think I am in their territory.  They have marked me.  They will come back for me.’

‘Then you can’t possibly stay.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because that would be an invitation to them to return.’

…’What if…what if that is the price one has to pay for staying on?  Perhaps that is show they look at it; perhaps that is how I should look at it too.  They see me as owing something.  They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors.  Why should I be allowed to live here without paying?  Perhaps that is what they tell themselves.’

…’Hatred…When it comes to men and sex, David, nothing surprises me any more.  Maybe, for men, hating the woman makes sex more exciting.  You are a man, you ought to know….’  (Disgrace, 158)

I think Gayle Rubin might both cry and cheer at this discussion between Lucy and her father.  Clearly, it confronts the ideas of women as chattel and a means of debt-solution.  However, here Lucy seems to recognize it’s inevitability, but not mind it to some degree and simply regard it as a fact of life.  Obviously, as a liberated, free woman of  northern New York, I was shocked at the level of submission that Lucy showed.  By the same token, however, she is fully aware of how dangerous her position is and may allow herself to maintain mental stability by emotionally removing herself from the sex that the men had with her.  I think that her homosexuality helps this removal in some way, because she does not expect sex with men to be pleasurable.  One difference between Lucy’s actions and Rubin’s theory is the fact that Rubin sees women as a form of gift given between males.  David is certainly not giving Lucy to these men in any way, she is giving herself.  Except she is not exactly giving, she is simply allowing them to take, which I do not consider to be the same gesture of good will.  This is interesting because Lucy’s actions do not necessarily create the “special relationship of trust, solidarity, and mutual aid” (Rubin 1671) that Rubin attributes to gift-giving.  So, Lucy obviously does not have the right to ‘give’ herself, and it will not create the link between her and her assailants.  Rather, I suspect that the situation is much more that Petrus, rather, feels himself to be the holder of rights over Lucy and has given her to the men who attacked her farm.  This neatly follows Rubin’s theory, for that special relationship due to gift-giving was certainly formed, and the woman (Lucy) had did not have the same rights to herself that the men had to her.

As for Rubin cheering, I thought that it was likely that she would share Lucy’s sentiments concerning men and sex.  And I think that she certainly may have struck a truthful chord in regards to her father’s attitude and need for sex.

March 14, 2007

Disgrace Rocks the House

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 11:33 am

I am not sure that I’m even capable of expressing how happy I am to be working with a text that has characters, a plot, and accessibility. It also takes half of the previous amount of time necessary to prepare for class, too. For this reason alone, I can love Coetzee.


While I wholeheartedly feel that David is a dirty asshole, he deos make for an interesting conflicted character. He has many questions about who he is and what his place in life is that I can understand. I think that it is interesting that we all require definitions and positions for ourselves in order to understand ourselves, but at the same time, this definition that leads to understanding also leads to limitations of what we feel we are capable of or allowed to do. Oh no, I think I just used Derridian theory. Anyhow, David feels defined and limited by his role of professor, because he does fit the role and is knowledgeable on the subjects he is teaching, but at the same time, he is not just a teacher, he is also a writer, a poet, and an artist (at least in his mind).

In Disgrace there is an interesting pairing of roles and value. As an intelligent and artistic man, David feels that he has a value that exceeds his role as an educator. When he is talking with his ex-wife, Rosalind, the narrator writes, “Perhaps it is the right of the young to be protectede from the sight of their elders in the throes of passion. That is what whores are for, after all: to put up with the ecstasies of the unlovely” (44). This particularly struck me because David is clearly implying that in the role one plays as ‘young’ (for it is certainly a demographic group as well as an occupation), one has the right to be protected from certain pleasantries. However, if one gives up this role and instead takes on the responsibilities of a prostitute, he or she is no longer valuable enough to be protected from pleasantries. Sick man.

Another interesting ideology is David’s pairing of beauty, economy, and the perpetuation of the system. In an attempt to seduce Melanie, he states, “‘a woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it.’ She does not own herself. Beauty does not own itself. ‘From fairest creatures we desire increase that thereby beauty’s rose might never die.'” (16) Why does there have to be ownership of beauty at all? It is because if someone owns it, there is an implication that someone else does not, thereby making it desirable. But, interestingly enough, the possessor of the beauty is not the owner of it. As Rubin would argue, beauty is not defined by the woman as an individual, but by society, and is used to give her a corresponding value in the effort to utilize her in the economic market. To incorporate Althusserian ideas, such a process is necessary in the effort to maintain the system that is in place and perpetuate it.

March 12, 2007

Who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, and what is the meaning of my life?

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 7:24 am


I have been used. No, actually, I won’t say that (yet). I am beginning to feel a minuscule amount of power and competence in my struggle to not only make it through theory, but know it well enough to use it. I’ve used it against other, non-English majors, but he has only dismissed me by saying that things are what they are and ‘you English people spend too much time thinking about things.’

Reading: To make a gross understatement, abstract thinking is not my strength. So, needless to say, concepts such as ‘the center is not the center’ is a bit of a struggle to integrate into my life. In my reading, I’ve pseudo-adopted a new strategy that I borrowed from one of my friends; when she took a course on Greek philosophy, the professor began the semester by saying that the ideas they would be covering were pretty difficult, and that if the students could not understand them, they should just memorize them. I think it’s working for me, to some degree, but if nothing else it has helped me to feel less non-intelligent.

My writing. It rambles. I’m not sure that I am writing my blogs as they were meant to be written. Often, I feel as though I’ve made a grand statement, only to go to class and find out that it’s a commonplace conclusion that everyone else has successfully ‘gotten.’ At the same time, however, though it’s a pain to write one before every class, it definitely helps me to retain some of what I read, otherwise I’m sure it would fly through my head in a nanosecond.

Conversation: Honestly, I have wholeheartedly attempted to have conversations about the theory we work with outside of class with other classmates. It starts off okay, but when my painfully elementary conception and understanding of the theory becomes apparent, there’s little use in continuing, because I simply don’t know it well enough to argue at any elevated level. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of conversations that include no argument as well, instead we’ve attempted to form any elementary understanding of the theorist’s ideas (in vain?).

Group work: Much like my attempts at conversation, participation in group work sort of feels like a collection of masochists taking a course on sensual massage. Okay, maybe not that bad, perhaps our group looks more like theory students who struggle to obtain elementary levels of understanding. I’m looking forward to the theory carnival, though, because perhaps it will be different discussing theory that we have already taken apart in class, fostering at least a sense of understanding, even if it is misguided or completely wrong.

Nothing personal, but I will be happy when this class is over. It is too much like an exercise (Olympic gymnast-quality) in mental acrobatics. I see it seeping into my life and it honestly has helped my ability to read literature in my other classes, but nonetheless, I’ll be happy to receive my theory lessons in smaller doses and much greater intervals.

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