Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter Break

So today's the last day of the Fall 2005 term. I took my last final, Earlier Romantic Lit. Since it's Saturday, there was no one to watch my sis, so she came with me to the final. She was disappointed cuz I told her how my prof always wears a bow tie, but he didn't today. And he wore a sweater vest instead of a jacket! Wow, he really does get casual on Saturdays. It was nice having her sit next to me reading The Bell-Jar while I took my final. The final was like all Wordsworth, and he didn't have a single Jane Austen question on it! Then my sis and I had fun at Northpark (they had ballroom dancers!) and at Mockingbird Station.

So far I know I got a B in Biochem (although I did make an A on final), an A in Dante's Poetic Vision, and an A in Health Psychology. Access is down for maintenance until 8 pm tomorrow, so I won't know until then what I got in Seminar: Literary Theory or Earlier Romantic Lit. Now that I don't have classes, I don't know what to do to occupy my time. We'll just have to see.

Queer Theory

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Dollimore’s essay chronicles the perception and definitions of perversion throughout history. He begins with Freud and Foucault’s definitions of perversions, which are both in regards to sexual perversion, commonly known as homosexuality. Here, the idea is that perversion is the natural state, while normality is the result of repressing our perverse selves. To better understand the controversial nature of Freud’s statements, Dollimore turns to the first appearance and use of the term in literature. St. Augustine defines perversion as “turning away from God’s path.” Incidentally, in the 1300s, Dante would use this word again to signify the “turning away from God’s love.” For Dante and St. Augustine, perversion equals sin; it is not the resulting action that is the sin, but the act of turning away from the straight path. Dante considered sodomy to be a sin because it was a violation of God’s nature. In the sodomy circle of Hell, Dante places his professor Brunetto Latini, whose sin of sodomy is magnified by the fact that he persuaded his students to partake in sodomy with him. Dante’s condemnation mirrors St. Augustine’s remarks that the magnitude of perversion is based on “the innocence of those being perverted.” Thus, Latini taking advantage of his students merits his placement in Hell.

On page 17, Dollimore says, “in its splitting the natural produces the perverse as a disavowal of itself and as a displacement of an opposite (the unnatural) which, because of the binary interdependence of the two (the natural and the unnatural), is also an inextricable part of itself.” Interestingly, this is the same language that Silverman uses to describe women in films. Like Silverman, Dollimore places women in the position of the perverse, a tradition he claims began with Eve. Dollimore seems to be using the same tactic as the ethnic studies literary critics by appealing to the Feminist literary critics and white women in the case of Desdemona. He aligns the plight of homosexuals with those of women thereby connecting the two groups as victims of the label of “pervert.” He presents the struggles of the two groups as trials that all “perverts” endure, which in turn takes away the stigma attached to pervert by making it an arbitrary term oppressively attached to women and homosexuals by patriarchy and ideology, respectively.



On page 8, Silverman says that a man in a film's audience "traces his suffering ... to his being out of touch with the breathing world about him, that stream of things and events which, were it flowing through him, would render his existence more exciting and significant. He misses 'life.' And he is attracted to cinema because it gives him the illusion of vicariously partaking of life in its fullness." In Silverman's films, the women are subordinate and dependent on men. They need rescuing and, lo and behold, the only brave soul that can do it is a man. But living vicariously through film implies that you are living a life that you do not have. So does this mean that in real life men are dependent on women and rescued by them? Maybe they are: Behind every good man is a great woman who provides stability and nourishment for her husband. And many women are attracted to "bad boys" with the hopes that they can change them and turn them into their own Pygmalion (another film that men live "vicariously" through). Maybe these films reinforce the patriarchy because men know that it's crumbling, that they're really not in charge, that they would be nowhere without the women in their lives. The head of my medical practice says, "Every doctor needs a wife. I would be nowhere without mine. I'm sorry that you as a women can't have a wife. You'll have to find a suitable substitute...maybe your mother."