Esther’s Space- journey through my life

August 10, 2007

Hold the presses, it’s one of my favorites–Pastiche!!!!!

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 5:19 pm

I am so excited, pastiche is one of my favorite words, and it’s a concept that I enjoy working with.  However, I am bright enough to realize that the understanding of pastiche I gained in “Intro to Literary Theory” isn’t the be-all and end all.  So, if you love pastiche as I do, you will be as thrilled as I to encounter Pastiche by Richard Dyer at the local, friendly public library!  It really is amazing what you can find if you have eight hours of your day to potentially come across it. 

So, the object of beauty: 


I’ve only been able to get as far into the book as it takes to wash a king-sized load of laundry, minus the seven minutes I spent entranced by the spin cyle.  It was a front-loader, you know how those go.  But, nonetheless, it looks like  a fabulous journey.  Written with a nicely British sense of humour, Dyer investigates the definition of pastiche, what makes something pastiche, and why we care.  I encourage all to delve into this book, since my fearless partner Greg’s only comment was something to the effect of, “That sounds like something you’d really like.” 


May 3, 2007

[insert clever title here]

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 1:27 pm

Group Project for Final Presentation

Group members: Esther, Aliya, Kim, Keva

Chosen Text: Our group decided to create our own text, a DocuParody if you will. You may know it under its working title, Fahrenheit 330. The text we created features our impressions of a number of theorists, and the relationships they would have with each other and the world in general. You may notice several connections between our DocuParody and the articles we read by the theorists, the theories themselves, and situations you may have encountered in your lives.

Our text looks a lot like this, except it moves, and everyone has hands.


Individual Readings (summaries provided, but names link to actual blog posts):

Keva– Keva approached the DocuParody with an eye for the gender confusion that is occurring. She was inspired by her reading of Judith Butler’s article in class. Keva investigated the function of ‘drag’ in the DocuParody, and contemplated the larger significance of cross-dressing in American society.

Kim– Kim was interested in looking at the influence of Donna Haraway’s ideas of technology and cyborg-ness when she investigated the DocuParody. Kim is particularly interested in focusing on her character, an oppressed woman, and the child that will be produced as a result of the coming together of cyborg, human and animal. It sounds disgusting, but it was tastefully filmed.

Aliya– Aliya looked at the group DocuParody in light of postmodern theories, especially Jean Baudrillard’s ideas about hyperreality. She was interested in noting the applicability of Baudrillard’s idea that everything is a copy of a copy, and therefore it is impossible to denote the original. Aliya also investigates the ability of simulations to eventually ‘stand in’ for the original in the social psyche.

Esther– Esther chose to read the DocuParody with her strongly Marxist individual theory. She recognized the alienation from labor that the theorists, characters, and the presenters were experiencing, as well as the fact that the entire project is part of the education system’s (predominant ISA) goal of informing the presenters of their roles in society and reforming them into submissive laborers.

Group Assessment of Text:

In Summation (you’ll hear this again): All these theorists work together to deconstruct the different levels of society in an attempt to shatter the images of reality society holds so dear. Althusser breaks down the governmental apparatuses. While Baudrillard breaks down the relation between image and language in reality.  Butler deconstructs the gender conformities of society while Haraway’s cyborg theory
is an attempt to find an answer within the fleeting reality by pairing it with imagery.  Combined, they make each one of us question our roles in hyperreality.

 Final Wrap-up:  After discussing their individual readings of the text, Esther, Keva, Aliya, and Kim all discovered that they were surprised by how many theorists simultaneously influenced their thinking. While the class theorists attempted to read the DocuParody with their own individual theories in mind, it often happened that other theorists, especially Jameson, Rubin, and Horkheimer and Adorno slipped into the conversation. The group decided that this common cross-referencing of theorists illustrated that all theorists (including every individual in the class!) were part of a common discourse regarding the understanding and conception of society. In looking at all theories as part of a common discourse, the group was able to put aside bickering over which theorist was closest to being ‘right’ and instead looked at how all of the theories could work together to provide a greater or more complex understanding of how society, gender, class, and media interact.

May 1, 2007

My Theory, by Esther Prokopienko

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 4:38 pm

Warning: Little of this will make sense until after Friday’s class.

In Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation), Louis Althusser introduced a number of important concepts, including:

  • “children at school also learn the ‘rules’ of good behaviour, i.e. the attitude that should be observed by every agent in the division of labour, according to the job he is ‘destined’ for” (1485)
  • “All the State Apparatuses function both by repression and by ideology” (1492)
  • Every individual is released from required education with the skills to fulfill his/her responsibility as the exploited, the exploiter, or the “professional ideologist” (1495)
  • “men make themselves and alienated (=imaginary) representation of their conditions of existence because these conditions are themselves alienating” (1499)

Using Althusser’s ideas to investigate the text we have provided, we discover a number of situations in which individuals are alienated from their labors, and there is active inculcation of behaviors and knowledge by the State Aparatuses.

One of the most prominent themes available is that all of the individuals involved in this production have been seriously alienated from their labors. The group members, acting under false identities and with the additional crutch of technology, have effectively removed themselves so far from their responsibilities as students that they no longer even need to stand in front of the class to give the presentation and instead are seated throughout the room. Because they are no longer directly involved in their labors, they cannot directly reap the benefits of their hard work. Furthermore, the theorists have been even further alienated from their labors; here their labor is embodied as thoughts. Instead of the theorists representing themselves, they have been replaced by these comedic representations (which delves into Baudrillard’s ideas), and their ideas have been requisitioned for private use, without the owners being notified of the theft of their intellectual property. Furthermore, the theorists are often not even aware that their intellectual property is being used as a tool of the most influential ISA, the education system.

Specifically, within the parody we see the Cyborg Representation being pimped by a personification of Karl Marx. When Marx tells Cyborg Representation to “go work that Mickey,” she returns to him with money, of which she is not allowed to keep any. This indicates that there was an exchange (cue Rubin), yet the Cyborg did not have the rights to keep the object (money) that was exchanged for her labors. In this situation, she is being alienated from her labors by her relationship with the parodied Karl Marx.

To move backwards, this entire project is giving us the skills to fulfill our roles in society, as well as the tendency to submit to the authority of the State Apparatuses. In making a parody, we are admitting to the love and understanding we have for the theories and their authors. Yet it all becomes pastiche once you are aware that the entire goal of this final presentation to to further inculcate us into our roles as current students and future members of the labor force.

As a theorist, I agree with Althusser’s assertion that the State Apparati (is that a word?) are designed to continually replicate the system in place.  However, there is nothing to say that this system of events is necessarily the correct method for life.  The problem that we continue to face is that, as I mentioned previously, “ultimately, 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!” (author’s blog 3/30/07).  While I would like to envision myself as a theorist that not only has concepts that explain the world, but am also capable of reforming it, there is the continual challenge that the likelihood of one person changing the world is slim.  I won’t say that we should collectively unite and form a strong coalition under a single leader, because I’m pretty sure that would be Communism and my grandparents would probably eternally bar me from Heaven.  I will however re-iterate that not only do we need to recognize the manner in which the government and our own society is influencing and forming us, but we must actively participate in life.  We should throw off this Marxist oppression of freedom when it begins to use its power not for the good of the individual or humanity in general and instead increases its own power for nothing more than sake of increasing governmental power.  Perhaps the time has come to re-evaluate the world for what is real and what is not (if that can be determined) and investigate what every party is gaining from your oppression. Not only should one learn from such an investigation, but one should also use the information to act as a catalyst for change.  I’d say ‘be all you can be‘, but I’m pretty sure the military is already using that to form their own little laborers.  So, be prudent, be smart, and don’t be a pimp, because nobody wins in that situation.

April 22, 2007

I’m sorry Donna, but we just can’t be friends…

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 10:08 pm

I tried to be open-minded. Really, even after I read the title, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism the 1980s” I decided that, since we’ve been having such a great streak with these readings, perhaps I now have the skills to take on these ridiculous pieces and ‘own’ the concepts for myself. I was wrong. Now, I’m back to that Barry tool of taking maybe just a little piece and masticating upon it for a while.

Okay, you can try to make her look cool by saying that she has blurred the distinctions between science and fiction, making it ‘new’ and ‘innovative’ when she says, “the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion” (2269). Certainly, some individuals have made this argument, because it is one of her most often quoted lines, such as in this article. However, I would argue that is not separately science and fiction that she is dealing with, but purely bona-fide, L. Ron Hubbard quality, science fiction here. It doesn’t make sense because it’s crazy talk.

It was rather difficult for me to fully understand what Haraway was arguing for in this article. (I do like to think that I’m not the only one, since this site, a self-announced “Ode to Donna” doesn’t even really talk about her writings, ideas, and accomplishments, instead a book about dogs and how cool she is as a person, yet has been maintained since 1996) Anyhow, back to the crazy talk. Haraway writes, “The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century” (2269). A cyborg being, “a hybrid of machine and organism,” (2269) I am led to wonder what’s the cyborg; feminism, the new gender, females, non-heterosexual beings or its, society? Where is this manifested, or ‘where da cyborgs at’? But, at the same time, Haraway seems to recognize her cyborgs as impossible, referring to her ideas as the “cyborg myth” (2274). So, we won’t have cyborgs taking over the earth (at least not in the near future), even if it may have looked like “late-twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial….Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (2272) in 1985, it is harder to swallow now, since we know that a machine is only as capable as the individual who has programmed it.

I’m not a fan of sci-fi. I’m not a fan of Haraway. It doesn’t make me think critically, it only makes me judgemental and grumpy. What do I do with this, where do I go with it, and how can it enrich me? And where did the cyborgs go after the first chapter? Why, Donna, why?

April 15, 2007

Baudrillard’s postmodern bend

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 9:07 pm


I need to begin by thanking Al Gore for inventing the Internet. I began Baudrillard, and immediately had the problem that I had no idea what simulacra was. Lucky for me, I had the internet available. (we will disregard the existence of dictionaries for this example) Now it all can make sense, because simulacrum is: slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance.

So, continuing on…

Though I enjoy reading and mentally sparring with Baudrillard’s stuff, we have a problem. I am Russian Orthodox, which is a very, very close sibling (sister, brother, you tell me) with Greek Orthodoxy, and we have those icons that he puts forth as an example of simulacra.

baudrillard.jpg christ.jpg

So, here we are, with representations of Jean and Jesus. “Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity.” (1735) My toes are bruised. As I understand it, Baudrillard argues that in the creation of images, we have replaced the genuine meaning of the individual with this representative, metonymically reproduced symbol or sign of the original, except that this is postmodernism, so there really is no original. Damn, that made perfect sense in my head.

So, we are then given the “successive phases of the image”n(1736)

  • reflection of a basic reality
  • masks and perverts a basic reality
  • masks the absence of a basic reality
  • bears no relation to any reality whatever; it is its own pure simulacrum

I understand the argument, and it is well constructed. However, I disagree. Both of the renderings above are reflections of some reality. At what point do they become these masks? How can this transition be recognized? Baudrillard writes, “the transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs which dissimulate that there is nothing, marks the decisive turning point.” (1736) I want the proof, Jean, not the rhetoric. These icons, similar to if we made copies of your picture on a machine, are reproduced using the original, and with no intent of altering or skewing the image. Is it then that the ‘meaning’ of the image changes? What represents that shifted meaning, then, because I see a representation of Christ when I look at the icon, hence the name, ‘icon’. The way Baudrillard describes the ‘successive phases of the image,’ I imagine some evolution, but I don’t see it. Perhaps I’m not looking….I’m going to go do a little magic schoolbus of the internet, I’ll brb.

Presenting: St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane & the African Orthodox Church:


he musical ministry is delivered through the “Ministers of Sound” also known as the church ensemble: Ohnedaruth. Many of the members of this ministry are ordained clergy who are dedicated to spreading Coltrane Consciousness.[…] With all music dedicated to God, to whom all praise is due, Ohnedaruth has played virtually every night club and Jazz venue in the bay area, including Kimball’s East, Yoshi’s, Bimbo’s, and the San Jose Jazz Festival.” (from the official St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church Website Okay, I take some of it back. This is enough to give the ‘real’ Orthodox churches an apoplexy twenty-seven times over.

I must revise my argument, though Baudrillard is against the idea of any original from which messed-up reproductions are made, isn’t it necessary in order to have some model for the new, and to compare it to? I can only compare St. John Coltrane’s icon to older icons because it was styled after it and in the same tradition. So, my weak and pathetic argument as I take my foot out of my mouth: while images and representations tend to reproduce simulacrarily and metonymically, not all necessarily at the same rate, and while the reproductions may be increasingly lacking with greater reproductions (copy of a copy), the original remains fresh and unadulterated, or at least more so than the 40th copy. And, no matter how many distortions are made to an image, it does retain it’s basic reality for a very long time. Jesus is still Christ in the pictures, even if he looks slightly different, and Jean is still Baudrillard. The ‘basic reality’ is the hardest to shake.

April 11, 2007

Horkheimer, Adorno, I’m no inchoate, I’m fully inculcated

Filed under: THEORY 330 — estherspace @ 7:10 am

The constant pressure to produce new effects (which must conform to the old pattern) serves merely as another rule to increase the power of the conventions when any single effect threatens to slip through the net.  Every detail is so firmly stamped with sameness that nothing can appear which is not marked at birth, or does not meet with approval at first sight.  (1227)


While Horkheimer and Adorno focus primarily on the entertainment industry, they do discuss the fact of art being destroyed by the same process as culture.  So, since my dinner date interrupted my perusal of this fascinating article, it gave me opportunity to ruminate upon some of the arguments they have made, including the requirement of sameness in the reproduction of culture.  So, we went to dinner.  The staging of the meal was exactly as it has always been, from drink order to dessert.  And, when the entree was presented, it looked like every plating of North American/European food that you’ve ever seen in a magazine; mixed vegetables nestled against a mound of mashed potatoes, with the protein (chicken in this case) leaning upon the potatoes at an angle.  The only new affect that was offered for the evening was a new entree option as the special, and the illusion of choice that Horkheimer and Adorno are concerned about.  However, despite this sameness of presentation and content, the restaurant is highly acclaimed, and furthermore, I was happy with what I was provided with.  I suppose I have been fully inculcated, because I was content with the illusion of choice and would likely demand the sameness again in the future.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about this to satisfy Horkheimer and Adorno, but perhaps my awareness will be enough for the present.

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