Entering the Simulacrum of Gender

In the African Aka tribe, the men stay at home with the babies while the women assume the role of the hunter, yet these men are not teased for being “feminine” and the women are certainly not seen as undesirable for having such “manly” roles. In the Western world, a man cannot wear a pink shirt without having his sexuality questioned. Certainly, these differences suggest that gender is not biologically based, or a fixed identity; however, we treat it as such. Upon discussing John Walters Female Trouble, Butler notes that the film “suggests that gender is a kind of persistent impersonation that passes as the real” (2541). This statement from Butler reminded me of Baudrillard’s definition of the simulacrum, something that replaces reality with its representation. When you walk into a toy store, you find that the toys are color and gender coded. Anything that is pink is highly acceptable for a girl, yet a blue item could cause that girl to undergo a metamorphosis and have her sex change to male. Nerf, a toy brand which creates foamed-weaponry is typically known for making toys for boys: Continue reading

No Homo(sexual), Yes Homosocial!

In Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Introduction for Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, she defines homosocial as “a word occasionally used in history and social sciences, where it describes social bonds between persons of the same sex; its neologism, obviously formed by analogy with ‘homosexual’ and just as obviously meant to be distinguished from ‘homosexual’” (2466). In short, homosocial describes same-sex relationships that are not sexual or romantic. Sedgwick elaborates that homosocial categories are “applied to such activities as ‘male bonding,’ which may, as in our society, be characterized by intense homophobia, fear and hatred of homosexuality” (2466). Although homosocial relationships are strictly platonic, it nevertheless causes anxieties related to homosexual behavior. Upon reading this, I had the following flashbacks of high school: Continue reading

Thoughts on Michel Foucault

In Part Two of The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, An Introduction, Foucault provides an expected history of sexuality. For Foucault, the relationship between discourse and sexuality is significant and hence becomes the focus of his argument. Through disagreeing with the repressive hypothesis (sex, except for the means of production is a taboo and should therefore not be discussed), Foucault claims that discourse on sex has intensified since the 18th century. Now this notion may not be shocking, considering that sex is found almost anywhere: Continue reading

Derrida: The Morpheus of Western Metaphysics

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus, The Matrix

Except, because you chose (who am I kidding? We were all assigned) to read Jacques Derrida, you do not have a choice to determine what pill you want to take. Instead, Derrida forces multiple red pills down your throat as he challenges your accepted beliefs about thoughts and language. “Western thought, says Derrida, has always been structured in terms of dichotomies or polarities: good vs. evil, being vs. nothingness, presence vs. absence, truth vs. error, identity vs. difference, mind vs. matter, man vs. woman, soul vs. body, life vs. death, nature vs. culture, speech vs. writing” (Johnson viii). However, because of the “hierarchical order which gives the first term priority” we tend to think that the second term in the pair is negative and undesirable (viii). Observe: light vs. dark, appears as if dark is the negative version of light. You are probably taking a second to take this in, don’t worry, this is only your first dosage of the red pill. Continue reading

How Snoop Dogg Helped Me Understand Paul de Man

Building on the ideas from Saussure and Nietzsche, Paul de Man argues that language and nature are disconnected. Although language is presumed to be expressive in its nature, language does not actually express nature. This is because the signified (concept) has no innate relation to the signifier (word). To make this concept easier, think of words that have meanings change over time, an example being “ice cube.” Typically, this term is used to refer to the solid state of water, however, in Snoop de Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Snoop questions us if we “See these ice cubes?” If the signified and the signifier bared a relationship to one another (other than the one created by language), Snoop would be asking us to look at an array of ice cubes. However, because there is no set relationship among the signified and the signifier, ice cubes, for Mr. Snoop, evoke diamond jewelry. This is what infuriates de Man about language, its figurative and rhetorical nature makes it impossible to convey truth. As literature relies on language in its composition, literature cannot be viewed as a reliable source of truth either: “Literature is fiction not because it somehow refuses to acknowledge ‘reality,’ but because it is not a priori certain that language functions according to principles which are those, or which are like those, of the phenomenal world. It is therefore not a priori certain that literature is a reliable source of information about anything but its own language” (“Resistance to Theory” 11). Continue reading

[Jay]kob[z]on and Beyoncé

Roman Jakobson states that the poetic function of language “cannot be productively studied out of touch with the general problems of language; and, on the other hand, the scrutiny of language requires a thorough consideration of its poetic function. Any attempt to reduce the sphere of the poetic function to poetry or to confine poetry to the poetic function would be a delusive oversimplification” (1150).

Yet, what exactly does this all mean? Continue reading

Thoughts on Stéphan Mallarmé

In the “Crisis in Poetry,” Stéphan Mallarmé states, “We desire a word of brilliant splendor or conversely one that fades away; and as for simple, luminous alternatives . . . But, we should note, otherwise poetry would not exist: philosophically, it is poetry that makes up for the failure of language, providing an extra extension” (NATC 737).

Reading this paired with the constant analogy of music that Mallarmé uses, I found myself remembering a quote that I have come across numerous times. Imagine yourself as a teenager again: After an argument with your parents about whether you could go out on Saturday night, you storm into your room and find solace with your computer. You blast “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and vow that you are not gonna take it anymore. You open up AIM and enter your new away message, “Where words leave off, music begins,” which was probably the same away message as half of your contacts. This overly cliché saying seems to be extremely similar to Mallarmé’s assertion that poetry is an extra extension of language as it bridges the gap between what is desired to be said and the limits of language. Continue reading