Friday, October 31, 2008

Big Bo

I offer many thanks to guest lecturer Ken Rufo both for providing the lecture and for putting what appears to be some very complicated material into easily understandable terms.

Baudrillard's ideas, or what I've gotten out of them from Rufo's lecture, are, frankly, crazy, though in a good way. In exploring simulation, simulacra, and integral reality, Bo (if I may be so crass) puts out the idea that all things, even the artificial, become "realized," which is to say that to those experiencing simulation, they do become real. This is interesting to me, especially when put against some ideas of media theory I've seen that say that the news media actually makes reality seem artificial due both to the presentation of reality in images and the way it is handled by the authoritative figures at our screen. However, I don't think Bo's ideas contradict this to heavily; his 'real' is that which we perceive, regardless of its basis in the real world. Therefore, to him, regardless of an entity's basis in true reality, if it is artificially placed within our perception, it is real. Therefore, the real artificiality that we might see on the 5:00 News still qualifies as Bo's 'realization' because it's presented in front of us as a simulation. So he may agree with certain schools of media theory but state that the artificiality we see on our couch is still being 'realized' because we're experiencing it.

More interesting to me, though, was Baudrillard's belief in critical theory as simulation, trying to ascribe meaning to ideas that the theory itself developed. My first thought regarding this was that it was essentially a deconstruction of theory itself, but it's not so much that because it doesn't look like he is interested in creating any meaning anywhere. Bo wants illusion to at least be a strong possibility - he wants to at least have the option that there is no and never was any meaning. It is for this reason that he examines simulation and acknowledges that it makes all simulated 'realized' - he doesn't want everything to have a degree of reality because he doesn't want there to be definite meaning, created by anything. I don't know if Bo was a nihilist or if he just wanted the possibility of nihilism to exist (and real quick I'm just going to jot this down so I don't forget it later --- does the linguist look at language as God? the Marxist, economics as God? the feminist, gender as God? the nihilist nothing as God? eh...) but I do know that he wanted nothing to be a possibility. It's interesting stuff and I do intend to actually read some of his work when my schedule allows. Until then, Big Bo, it's been real.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If No Author, Anarchy?

Of the points discussed in Barthes's "The Death of the Author," I am most interested in the religious ideas that permeate the essay. The ideas of the Author-God and theological meaning create a strong image by which to contrast Barthes's thoughts, which become in this context atheistic. For most of literary history, the writer of a text has been regarded as a strong intellectual being with total control over said text, hence the title author. It is Barthes's rejection of this idea of a God-like authority presiding over a text, that leads to many questions regarding the source of meaning within the text.

This blog entry discusses the authority of the blogger. It discusses that people tend to perceive the writer as the authority. This is interesting because it reiterates the idea of a natural and/or cultural tendency to look at writer as authority. The post also examines ways for a blogger to increase authority, which gets at an idea of authority as a commodity for which the writer should strive rather than a concept that should be assigned (as Barthes assigns authority to text).

The blog post taken into consideration along with "The Death of the Author" seems to present a power struggle wherein Barthes presents truly revolutionary ideas by denouncing the authority that the writer is both given and fights for. The author attempts to create order while Barthes, as a post-structuralist, looks to collapse this order and find new sources of meaning. In ways, Barthes is arguing for textual anarchy or chaos, from which new order can emerge.

Because I do a decent amount of creative writing myself, the concept of a writer sans authority is interesting and, in some ways, crucial to me. Am I to understand that what I wish to accomplish in a work is without merit and that the text itself overshadows me? That the text I create denies me? It is perhaps a tough pill to swallow, but it's tough for me not to acknowledge this given the amount of times I have read a book or seen a movie and gotten a different, but just as logical, meaning out of it than a peer. With regards to obtaining meaning from my own text, maybe I'm just another reader and my only responsibility is to put the words together and come up with a story with legs. The meaning behind it is not my responsibility (as much as I'd like it to be), because that can only come from the text itself. If the order I've assigned as Author-God is to be denied, then anybody's order is as relevant as mine. I suppose that for the development of ideas and theory, this is good. However, the blog entry referenced above makes one correct assumption, at least about me, and that is that I want that authority, and I wish I lived in a period in which I could have it, no questions asked.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Loving Love

Because of something, be it an imposed ideology or something biological or something spiritual, humans believe in love as something they must have. Love has for millenia been, in the heavy majority of cultures, been regarded as amongst the ultimate achievements in a person's life. Derrida says that love is narcissistic. As we discussed in class, narcissism is an individual's needs and the desire for these needs to be filled, to the point of ignorance of the needs of others. Derrida believes that love is narcissistic because it is a projection of one's needs on another. So in preschool when I asked Hannah to be my wife in preschool, I was assuming that she was as strongly in need of the fulfillment of her needs as I was, and that we would ride off on a horse to Minnesota or something along those lines. She was hesitant to answer, and when she broke her arm the next week, I no longer found her attractive and moved along to Play-Do and toy trucks as the only love I really needed. I never did confront her for an answer, so it stands to logic that perhaps Hannah did have the same needs I did, and perhaps I would have successfully fulfilled her needs as projected by my needs upon her and she with hers upon me. I believe that sentence makes sense.

Fact of the matter as I see it is that love is narcissism because our world depends on this idea of love as something that we all must attain. Love is consumerism, and in this case, consumer culture refers to that of the entire globe. This isn't to say that love cannot be good and fulfilling. It is not to say that people are into love simply because they want to achieve love as something in its own right, either. Maybe love refers to the fulfillment of another's needs, and the consumerist desire to arrive at love is indicative of something in people - again, it could be biological, ideological or cultural, or through a greater power - that strives to fulfill the needs of an other. Perhaps the narcissism in love is realized by totally fulfilling the needs of the lover. In this light, narcissism doesn't seem so bad.

As a complete aside, I think the score in the documentary was very strong.

Hannah, if you read this, and your arm is healed, the question still stands.