Sunday, October 30, 2005

Jane Eyre

Email 5:

I've always preferred Jane Austen's realism to the supernatural darkness of Bronte novels (both sisters). I just don't get why the ending could be considered a happy one. Jane, who has reached the sole possibility of female empowerment through her inheritance, throws away all of the possibilities that that inheritance presents to marry herself to a freak with a castrated arm. I mean seriously! This sooo would not happen. Part of why Jane is happy to be with Rochester is because she's so plain and has nothing to offer and is totally flattered that this rich, charming guy is noticing her. She hasn't been involved with any man before, so this is quite thrilling for her. The second guy she's with seems okay to marry, except he's weird, and she would have married him if she didn't know that she could have done better (cuz she was able to catch Rochester).

But a woman with money is in a unique position to actually have a choice as to who to marry, and Jane has the opportunity to see the world and find the right man for her. This man cannot be the maimed Rochester. There's just no way. Not the guy to made his first wife crazy and then stuck her in an attic. Not the guy who dresses up like a gypsy. Not the guy who has no problem being a bigamist. There has got to be a better man in England! And now she has a chance to find that man because she has that money. It's just like Jude the Obscure and how he can't find the right woman, he just meets the two and thinks he has to choose. At least in Jane Austen the right guy is there somewhere, you just have to figure out which one he is. I'd take a Darcy over a Rochester any old day.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lacan's "The Mirror Stage"

Email 6:

Lacon begins his essay with a definition of the “mirror stage”. This is the stage of childhood development when the child is first able to recognize his own image in the mirror, even though the child’s brain is no more developed than a chimp’s brain. The chimp, however, quickly tires of his reflection, while the human child sees the mirror as a continuous interacting stimulus. It is through this special stimulus that the child begins identification and the development of the self. The reflection of the child in the mirror serves as an example of Gestalt, the concept that objects embody certain qualities of the viewer.

Lacon claims that the function of the mirror-stage is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality – the same function that all images serve. The mirror is the reflection of the self just as much as art is a reflection of the artist and his world. During the mirror stage, the child begins to see himself as a subject and object simultaneously, a concept similar to the “reflexive” part of speech. Thus the child sees not only himself in the mirror, but also the way that others see him. The mirror begins his initiation into the social world, with all of the self-consciousness and insecurities that come with it. His word, m├ęconnaissance, cleverly expresses self-knowledge as it literally translates as “knowing me.” While the mirror stage may seem idealistically revelatory in this regard, it may also be the beginning of psychopathology. No matter how much this child will want to know himself, he cannot completely do that. And suppose, years later, the child sees something about himself that he does not like. This leads to self-loathing and a desire to change himself into something he can never be in order to satisfy others or himself.

Lacon’s final statement is a quite poignant comment on the limits of psychoanalysis, as well as all other clinical practices. As clinicians, we can help our patient know himself and his disease, but we cannot go back in time to correct it. We can only perform an intervention at the primary, secondary, or tertiary levels. Just as scar tissue remains in the body after medical procedures, the mind also remains scarred after intervention. The best that we can hope to do as clinical psychologists/psychiatrists is to expose the disorder to the patient so that he may come to understand it and cope with it. The disorder will not go away; it is na├»ve to think that it will. Psych disorders are preventable precisely because their origins can be traced. But this can only be done through the benefit of hindsight, and there is no guarantee that if a different path had been taken the disorder would not have occurred anyway or that a different psychopathology would have emerged altogether.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Email 4:

To me, deconstruction really drives to the meat of literary criticism: the identification of critical problems and the resolution of them. Without binaries, we would not see the aspects of a literary work that do not fit into them. And aren't those anomalies what we as literary critics are most interested in? It's so interesting how the structuralist notion of binaries is portrayed as an inherent part of Western culture, while the deconstructionist idea of anomalies is painted as something often only an intellectual can see. Deconstructionism encourages the mind to push the envelope and keep looking at the text. When the lay-reader reads a text, he is only understanding it at plot level. But when we as trained literary critics read it, we find that certain aspects of the text nag at us, and that is the time when deconstruction can provide us with guidance as to how to treat textual anomalies.

Who Are You From Instant Star?


Lord knows you'll pay if you call him Little Tommy Q to his face, because with his boy band past firmly behind him, Tommy demands respect from everyone around him -- without throwing tantrums about it. While he's a little more jaded than Jude (as in realistic about just how much crap one has to put up with to keep moving forward in the music industry), he's still confident (uh, VERY confident) in his own decisions, directions, and tastes.

29% of the people who tooks this quiz got the same evaluation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How I Used Biochemistry to Interpret Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"

This is an email I privately sent another English prof, that he promptly forwarded to the rest of the class.

I had an epiphany of what rhymes with dulcimer...multimer! OK, so the rhyming dictionary says that there are no perfect rhymes for the word, but multimer sounds close, as do its derivatives: homomultimer and heteromultimer. So what is a multimer, you ask? It is a protein with more than one peptide chain. A homomultimer has multiples of the same kind of chain, while a heteromultimer has different kind of chains - Hemoglobin is made of 2 alpha helices and 2 beta sheets, thus it is a heteromultimer. My fall break Tuesday was spent making up a biochemistry exam over this material because I missed it due to my interview, which went extremely well, and I thank you for your constant support in my medical school journey.

Could Coleridge have used the word multimer to rhyme with dulcimer? The answer is a resounding no. Alpha helices and beta sheets were not discovered until the 1950s by the great Linus Pauling, therefore combinations of them to create secondary protein structures would not have been known nor named in 1798. But the description of the intricacies of Kubla Khan's infrastructure does sound awfully close to the intricacies of protein structure, however unintentional that may be. The Alph river sounds like an alpha helix to me, and alpha helices often shoot up in the middle of a large protein for the purpose of protein signalling. Maybe C.P. Snow would appreciate my analysis, but perhaps I should not mix disciplines so. Just thought I would share my thoughts.

I Even Worked a Med School Rant in Literary Theory!

Email Five

I'm with William on this one. In class we talked about how Heidegger's stages of human being parallel the struggle of students. I can totally relate. In high school, I worked really hard to make perfect scores on my AP exams. Then in college I worked really hard to make A's and do well on the MCAT so that I could go to medical school. This summer I worked really hard on my med school applications, and all the money I made working really hard at the hospital went to my applications (around $3000). Now I have my first med school interview this Friday at UT Houston, and I have tons of pressure to perform well there as well. Then once I get into med school there will be boards (a series of three licensing examinations) and the science classes of the first two years, and then after med school there's residency with 48 hour shifts and call nights. It seems like it will be forever until I'm an actual doctor who can just chill.

The reason I am going through all of these obstacles is so that I can find something like what Heidegger calls "forfeiture," what we Persians call "aramesh." I want that moment when I can rest on my laurels and bask in the glory of success and achievement instead of this constant state of anxiety about my future and if I'm really ever going to make it. Yes, Herr Heidegger, I do agree that creating meaning out of my life before I am dead is a fantastic motivating factor, but so is the chance to relax and not have to work so hard. I don't want to work myself into the grave! But that seems to be exactly what Heidegger says I am doing. Maybe he's right, but that's certainly not my intention.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

UT Houston Interview

My interview was great yesterday! I got to see the whole campus, and meet med students and professors. The professors and administration really seem to care about their students, and the environment is not competitive, which is such a relief. It's nice to be around people who aren't trying to stab you in the back. My interviewers were both women and very nice. They never mentioned my taking courses at other schools or anything. My second interviewer never mentioned grades at all. It was a very exciting day in a fun city. I like this school a lot, and I hope that I'll hear some good news February 1, just in time for my birthday.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hafez Poem

Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly
Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,
My need of God