fuckin whoops: 5 texts that are influencing my writing in 2018

I’m presenting these in no particular order, as it’s difficult for me to rationalize a hierarchical system to describe formativity.  This is by no means a complete list, and I provide by no means a complete explanation/summary for each text. The thing that started this entire post is that I really can’t include all of this information into a single media response (half of which I already turned into a Twessay omfg) for ANTH 497, and I needed to figure out a way to frame information in a way which would be useful for said project without going over the 1000-word limit. Thus as opposed to fully historicizing and explaining my thoughts and responses to these readings I’m instead wanting to provide a method of brevity for some of my papers (but the one in particular) coming up this semester.

Basically: I needed to figure out a way to cite myself.

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Self portrait of the blogger.

Pic unrelated, mostly.

Note: I use the term “ugly feelings” more than once to describe my own negative affects upon experiencing texts. This is a term that I know is from one of these readings, but for the life of me I can’t recall which one. Whoops!

On to the listicle:

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 2006. Touching feeling: affect, pedagogy, performativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

I first read Eve Kosofky Sedgwick’s Touching Feeling around this time last year, and found the experience to be especially formative not only with respect to the way/s in which I choose to approach research but also the way/s in which I am capable of said approach. In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You” Sedgwick delineates (or, rather, attempts to delineate–the distinction is less a binary opposition and more a wibbly wobbly readerly eagerly) between paranoid and reparative methods of reading. Where the paranoid is “anticipatory […] reflexive and mimetic […] a strong theory […] a theory of negative affects […]” and that which “places its faith in exposure” (130) the reparative is that which allows one “to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole” (128). As a queer and as someone who often experiences difficult or ugly feelings about texts the concept of the reparative reading is especially poignant for me as it offers the opportunity to take those negative affects and turn them into something positive (or, at the very least, into something more whole than shame). This is especially important and poignant to me as not only a queer reader but also a person who tends to find enjoyment in the reading of negative affects.

Allan, Jonathan A. 2016. Reading from Behind A Cultural Analysis of the Anus. The Exquisite Corpse. Regina: University of Regina.

I’m still in the process of reading this one, but I think it’s definitely going to remain influential over time. I struggle with being willing or able to express my love and enjoyment of texts which contain materials other people may find offensive or distasteful (ex. body horror), and more relevantly I struggle to put into words why I find enjoyment in some texts that others are unable or unwilling to. Even in explaining things in this way, however, I feel that I have fallen into a paranoid trap: “[t]he very idea of the reparative reading renders critics paranoid, anxious, worried. We apologize for it before we have even begun to do it” (16). Building on Sedgwick’s reparative reading Reading From Behind has thus far been a mix of emotions, but overall skewing to comfort. There is a comfort in knowing that there is a method by which my ugly feelings may be transformed. In the chapter “Spanking Colonialism” Allan writes that “[c]lose reading is a kind of erotic engagement with literary and visual texts that enables us to move slowly through the density of words or images” (117), and while I’m speeding through this first read-through of Reading From Behind I’m looking forward to sitting on my future responses as long as possible.

Fischer, Hal. 2015. Gay Semiotics: a photographic study of visual coding among homosexual men. Los Angeles, California: Cherry and Martin.

Gay Semiotics has been a foundational reading for me with respect to understanding semiotic coding as it relates to prestige and safety. While visual information is not capital-L-Language it still provides so much contextual information which is/may be important to the understanding of a given text. As semiotics plays so well with understanding the ways in which visual information is expressedly intertextual and intermedial Gay Semiotics provides so much information on the understanding of archetypal images and the ways in which these images may be used to parse further information from a specific set of visual information which we may not elsewise have done. While I think that most texts on semiotics fulfill the use-need I’m describing here because so many of my ugly feelings come from a place of seeing queer images where others may not choosing an explicitly queer (or, in this case, gay) text is important to me.

Brice, Mattie. 2017. “Play and Be Real about It: What Games Could Learn from Kink.” Essay. In Queer Game Studies, edited by Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw, 77–82. Minneapolis, Minesotta: University of Minesotta Press.

The idea that kink could be used as a theoretical framing device literally never occurred to me prior to reading this, despite the fact that it makes so much sense. Queer Game Studies was a huge part of my ANTH 498 final study, and I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about the ways in which my own theory/praxis are influenced by kink and BDSM (heads up: it’s a lot of ways). Brice explains it this way: “Kink isn’t just a topical analogy […] it’s a good framework for challenging these contextless play experiences by reimagining the positions of the designer, player, and play, and what those positions mean” (78). In considering this through a lens of that reparative reading I’m (obviously) such a fan of this has opened up the possibilities for dealing with ugly thoughts and ugly responses I have to texts–by coming to information reparatively and spatially I’m better able to negate the shame and humiliation that I often experience as a reader because I am the reader. It’s a small consideration, but all too important, that “WE ARE ALWAYS PLAYING. WE ARE ALWAYS IN CONTEXTS. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING” (79). By considering our own positionality to a text we are better able to address our own values and ideologies as they influence our understanding/s.

Barthes, Roland. 1975. The Pleasure of the Text. Translated by Richard Miller. New York, New York: Hill and Wang.

While I tried to keep order out of this list as much as possible, it really is important to be ending with this quote: “No ‘thesis’ on the pleasure of the text is possible; barely an inspection (an introspection) that falls short” (34).

I hope this post ends up being useful to me moving forward, and I do recommend (perhaps obviously) that you check out each of these texts on your own time! Also it really isn’t lost on me that this list is incredibly white and incredibly male, so if you have any recommendations for texts you like that you think may help rectify that let me know!

Let me know your own reactions either here or on Twitter if you get a chance! I’m always curious about others’ perspectives!

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Affectual Perfomance via Liminal Rites in John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Disclaimer: This post was written as part of my ENGL 366: English and Anglophone Literature requirements in March 2017.


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Femininity is portrayed in John le Carré’s novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold as that which is positively affectual. This is not to say that women are portrayed as happy-go-lucky or lackadaisical, but rather that femininity is associated with a high level of interactivity and alertness with one’s surroundings. In considering masculinity to be in binarist opposition to femininity, masculinity is thus portrayed through a negative affect. Or, perhaps more accurately, as that which is inaffectual and detached. Characters are encouraged by Control(lers) to perform the affect which is most congruent with their role. In this situation a spy or operator will be required to take on a more masculine affect, for example, so as to not be affected by the circumstances of their position. Thus while there is argument for women as the root of danger in espionage operations in Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold it is rather my argument that bungled masculine affect is a more accurate expression of Carré’s danger. I will support my argument via demonstration of the affectual performances of several characters as they relate to Alec Leamas’ movement through liminal rites of passage: preliminally Leamas is “The Operative,” liminally “The Defector,” and postliminally “The Bungled Man.”

At the outset of the novel Leamas is in Germany, overseeing a group operatives. As the operation progresses his operatives are murdered by Hans-Dieter Mundt. In seeing Karl Riemeck—his last operative—killed in attempting to cross into West Germany Leamas returns to London to be debriefed. In this preliminal stage as “The Operative” Leamas sees those who partake in espionage as those who are capable of a greater level of tolerance. As the title of the novel suggests Leamas considers the best operatives those who are able to withstand “the cold” (15). In comparing himself to Control Leamas sees Control as someone who sits in London, in an office, with his space heater and his tea with “affected detachment, […] courteous according to a formula miles removed from Leamas’ experience” (14). While there are class-based differences which Leamas feels in relation to Control, this passage notes the successful masculine affective performance of Control which denotes him as an effective espionage tool if not an operative.

This delineation between feminine and masculine affects continues through the character of Liz Gold. Liz and Leamas are introduced to one another as Leamas is “put […] on the shelf” (19) and coming to work at a library (26). When Leamas is struck with a fever prior to his punching of the grocer Liz is the one who nurtures him back to relative health, and is thus shown to be a kind and compassionate woman who cares deeply for Leamas (34-37). Additionally, as a member of the communist party (32) she presents her ideological status to be one of communal growth and nurturing. This being said her role within the party is subjected to diminishing comments by male party-members (145) which speaks to one of the many ways in which feminine performance acts as a threat to masculine performances—the affect of women is deemed a threat and is thus diminished. Leamas himself falls into this trap in describing Elvira: “Elvira was dead now, and serve her right. He remembered Liz” (82). There was a danger to Elvira’s femininity and she required diminishing for it, just as Liz requires diminishing by party members. Additionally in connecting the death of Elvira to Liz Leamas also enacts a foreshadowing to the novel’s conclusion.

In considering the true threat to espionage ops to be affective performance it makes sense to call attention to a progression of ideologies with Leamas’ handlers through his liminal rites, as it also calls attention a progression of affect: “Ashe, Kiever, Peters; that was a progression in quality, in authority, which to Leamas was axiomatic of the hierarchy of an intelligence network. It was also, he suspected, a progression in ideology. Ashe, the mercenary, Kiever the fellow traveller, and now Peters for whom the end and the means were identical” (74). Ashe denotes a feminine affect as one who Leamas considers to be a “cissy” (59) or a wholly bungled masculine performance, Kiever denotes a mixed affect of one who can switch roles, and Peters denotes a wholly masculine performance of detachment.

While Ashe succeeds in his performance of the “mercenary” and calls Leamas into his role as “The Defector,” Ashe bungles a masculine performance. As the lowest mark in the intelligence hierarchy Ashe is also the one furthest from “the cold”—the one furthest from successfully performing a detached masculine affect. Much as Liz takes care of Leamas through the preliminal rites of his physical illness prior to attacking the grocer, so too does Ashe take care of Leamas in the liminal rites of Leamas’ calling into the role of defector: “‘Now, don’t fuss,’ he said soothingly; ‘let’s just take things one at a time’ […] ‘I’ve looked after you up till now, haven’t I?'” (54, 57).

In meeting Leamas—and removing Leamas from Ashe’s care—Kiever takes Leamas to a club to further discuss Leamas’ liminal path into defectorship. At the club there is a girl in the bar who appears “pitiful” with a “spindly nakedness which is embarrassing because it is not erotic” (59). As a failed feminine performance—a performance of neither masculinity nor femininity—she is deemed to not be a threat and Leamas and Kiever talk with one another as though she is not present. This girl who stands as an analogy for that which is wholly not masculine and wholly not feminine also marks a mid-point for Leamas with his handlers.

Peters is the furthest in “the cold,” and thus the least femininely affective. Leamas comments to Peters: “[…] don’t pretend like you’ve fallen in love with me,” to which Peters “observe[s] [Leamas] dispassionately” (68). This exchange marks a point of frustration for Leamas, and the final point of his liminal rites. Up to this point he has been guided or handled by those with at least a modicum of feminine affect, and to Leamas this has been a mark of unprofessionalism and impropriety. With Peters, however, there may be connections drawn to Control: where Control is “detach[ed]” (14) Peters is “dispassionat[e]” (68). Peters is thus shown to be someone who is aware of his own impact, and an operative capable of guiding Leamas through these final liminal rites.

At the end of the novel Leamas casts all those who partake in espionage as “pansies, sadists, and drunkards” (217, my emphasis), and in doing so casts a dichotomied role upon agents: the pansy may attempt to play a masculine role, but will ultimately be bungled in his attempt/s through feminine affect. As performers both Leamas and Liz are puppetted by Control: “We happened to fit the mould” (216). Although it is not until the final moments of the novel where Leamas understands the full extent to which both he and Liz are being puppetted by Control in that Liz could never have lived, and was only being brought to the wall so that Leamas would continue to the wall. In seeing Liz shot, and unable to reconcile the role of his own masculine affect of detachment in her death, Leamas allows himself to be shot attempting to traverse the Berlin Wall. With his death (225) Leamas is thus finally brought into the postliminal role of the “Bungled Man.”


Works Cited

Le Carré, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

Who is the inauthentic woman?: Fractal Recursivity in Charisma’s “King”

The song I’m looking at for my first media response is King by Charisma. I chose this song as it nods to and constructs femininity in a specific way, wherein there is an authentic woman via constructing an inauthentic woman by comparison. This construction isn’t new by any means, and is an aspect of fractal recursivity, wherein “the fact that the differences which are made to be iconic are used in the creation of an ‘other'” (2004, Andronis). That said: this construction is important to consider as a reflection of not only Charisma’s lyrical considerations of women (within the scope of this project), but also how said constructions have come to be (a bit beyond the scope of this project).

For the remainder of this essay I will be using the term ‘authentic woman’ as it is contrasted by the ‘inauthentic woman.’ That said: I cannot agree with the message sent through the lyrics, and actively wish to push back against the idea that there is an inherently authentic womanhood which is contrasted by an inherently inauthentic womanhood.

Image Source

I will proceed with a short analysis of the specific language used in the song by examining the chorus and several verse sections (although I have included the lyrics in their entirety, with exception of chorus repetitions due to brevity). Disclaimer: I do not wish to express negativity toward either the song or Charisma with my analysis, as I know absolutely nothing of Charisma proper and enjoy the fuck out of the song. I also appreciate any and all constructive criticisms and comments made either here or via Twitter.


Chorus:

Oh I
Can’t wait until I become king
say goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things
No more of their plastic and empty dreams
When I become king

Although Charisma sings that one day they will become “king” this is not to say that Charisma is rejecting femininity, but rather that she is associating her own feminine identity with respect to the power and authority attributed to the entextualized title of “king.” Whereas the authentic woman is able to gain power and authority through “say[ing] goodbye to the bullshit and shallow things” the inauthentic woman is trapped by her inability to move away from “plastic and empty dreams.”


Verse, Part 1:

Can you hear me now
Loud and clearly now
I got shit to say
So just hear me out
Look what’s winning now
Are we for real right now?
Building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud

Here Charisma positions herself as the authentic woman, who is subsequently assertive (“I got shit to say”), while calling to attention the contrast between herself and what I have deemed to be classed lyrically as the inauthentic woman. Whereas the authentic woman is assertive in her speech, construction of identity, and concerns over others (“are we for real right now?”) the inauthentic woman is constructed only for the male gaze (“building plastic dolls just to make daddy proud”).


Verse, Part 2:

Turn that bullshit off
Play my music loud
Just be who you are
Don’t let them tear you down
I’ve some self esteem
that’s what’s up right now


Verse, Part 3:

I’m on Skype with my friends like wassup right now
Bless my brother Cal
Cuz he helped me up
Peace to my hometown I’m in
LA now
No injected butts
No injected lips
Beauty lies within
That’s what always wins out

Here again we see that the authentic woman has “beauty [which] lies within” and rejects “injected butts” and “injected lips.” Additionally the authentic woman “always wins out” by virtue of standard deletion (ie. the inauthentic woman who has been modified in some way is the default, and the authentic woman is constructed through a process of trait deletion).


Verse, Part 4:

So if you is tired of fakeness as I am
Then give me the freedom to sing
I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king

I’d like to call attention here to the fact that I have chosen not to include chorus repititions as an aspect of my analysis, but I’d like to note that I do find it very interesting that the bridge (“I can’t wait I can’t wait to be king”) is repeated in addition to the chorus proper (2017, Vox). If I had chosen to analyze this piece on the basis of literary analysis as opposed to a constructive analysis this is absolutely something I would have focused on more.


Verse, Part 5:

Let me clear the air
This is not a diss
This is opposite of all that gossiping
This is common sense
Mixed with consciousness
This is ‘ I love myself ‘ that’s why I’m the shit


Verse, Part 6:

So why would I care?
If it’s not a hit
When was truth ever based on acknowledgement
I’ve got self esteem
Plus my squad is lit
That’s why we’re taking off like a rocket ship

As part of this analysis I cannot discount the effects of the music proper. The song itself is poppy, and uses a popular triplet meter. In using this as an example of the ways in which the musicality turns to other music for genre convention constructive practices it is thus possible to conclude that although Charisma sings that they do not require validation they are influenced by popular genre conventions and are simultaneously willing to influence said conventions. This is another example of fractal recursivity whereby Charisma is “tapping into this great collective artistic movement” (2017, Vox).


Verse, Part 7:

So don’t try to tell me what’s cool right now
I could care less of what’s in right now
The only thing I wanna be right now
Is me


Verse, Part 8:

So we don’t need you for [unintelligible]
We know that we can do anything
I can’t wait, I can’t wait to be king


As has been shown above this song and the language used therein are directly related to the topic of language and gender. Where the authentic woman has access to power, authority, and subsequently prestige the inauthentic woman exists as a “plastic” thing for the male gaze. Repetition is used to great effect in this construction, with specific associations of “king” (obviously) and “plastic […] fakeness.

In completing this analysis I am left wondering whether or this song could function without the foundational premise of authentic versus inauthentic womanhood? I would be interested to look more into the ways in which gender is produced through music (and specifically how music videos amplify this, something which is well beyond the scope of this analysis). Moving forward I would love to see other songs that people think follow similar lines of gender construction in addition to those which fight against gender/ed language in music. In reviewing the course objectives this song allows for a “discuss[ion regarding] the role of language in the construction of gender […] identities” in addition to facilitating my own “critical respons[e] to [an] original source readin[g]” and thus would be appropriate for further consideration beyond the short essay I have written here. I think that there is still consideration to be made here regarding the trajectory of the way/s in which music influences thought as it stands in opposition to the way in which specific people express their own ideologies. While this type of analysis cannot be undertaken on a single source, “King” would absolutely be a necessary aspect of a larger project due to its explicit engendering.

[A few] questions I’m left with:

  • How does racialization impact not only an analysis of the lyrics as they construct womanhood, but also influence further understandings of womanhood therein?
  • How do aspects of racialization of genre convention with respect to specific musical tropes or mores influence an understanding of the music overall?
  • How are trans women excluded from the category of “authentic woman” here? Would it be possible for the lyrics to continue to express their base message of us vs. them without excluding trans women? How?

#StudentFriendshipZine

I put out a Tweet yesterday that got some really positive feedback on the topic of undergraduate friendships, and their importance in knowledge creation. Since a couple people expressed that they wanted to write something on this topic as well I figured putting together a no-worries no-stress zine on the topic might be fun!

Shoot me your art, photography, and writing on the topic of the bonds you have with your friends with/as students, and how that influences the way you understand the world!

Some ideas include:

  • Who are your student-to-student friends? How were these bonds created?
  • What ways have your student-to-student relationships influenced your research interests? Vice-versa?
  • Where did you make your student-to-student friends? Why was this space/place important?
  • Why have your student-to-student friendships remained important over time?
  • How do you feel you’ve influenced your student-to-student friendships for the better? How can you be a better friend to the students around you?

But please feel free to twist and shape the topic in any way you see fit!

While the original Tweet called on undergraduate friendships specifically non-undergraduate students of all types are welcome to submit! I only ask that you please remember to specify what type of student you are!

If you are submitting writing (creative fiction/non-fiction, essays, unessays, paragraphs, friendship testimonials, poetry, etc):
– If the writing has been handwritten please scan the page and submit a high-quality image or .PDF.
– If the writing has been written using a computer please upload a high-quality .PDF, Google Drive file, or use the text submission box.

If you are submitting art (photography, traditional art, digital art, etc):
– Please upload a high-quality .PNG or .PDF (unless the quality is part of the art).
– If your submission is artistic assets of some type please upload a .PSD or .AI.

If you are submitting a page or spread:
– Please upload an .INDD.

Due to my own time constraints I ask that all submissions be in no later than Valentine’s Day 2018 (February 14th, 2018) February 21st, 2018! If you would like to submit but are unable to make that deadline let me know via Twitter (@mxmoireabh) and I’ll do my best to work with you! You’ll be notified when your pieces are accepted or not no later than February 18th, 2018. I encourage submitting multiple pieces(!), however due to space constraints not all pieces will necessarily be accepted and you’ll be informed of which pieces have been accepted and which have not.

I look forward to seeing everyone’s submissions!

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Heads up!

Although my blog has thus far been a class-work receptacle I’d like to begin branching out more and more into lifestyle blogging. This absolutely doesn’t mean the essays will stop, but rather that I’d like to try out some other content as well! While I’ve queued up a number of “Get to Know the Blogger” lists like this one, I’m also planning on posting my bullet journal spreads and note-taking methods! Studying is always more fun with friends, and I’d like to emulate that here!

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me as a meme

As for the reasoning behind this change: as I mentioned in my Surprise! Pearls post making money in university while disabled has been difficult. In the last couple of years I’ve struggled with financial set back after financial set back, and in order to be able to continue schooling I need to have a stable source of income. While I’m working to build a freelance editing portfolio I’ve decided to go back to my roots and hustle the heck out of my life. This semester I’m taking courses part-time, and will thus hopefully leave me the room I need to get this blog moved in the direction and with the reach I need to be successful at this whole writing gig.

If you have any comments or suggestions shoot me a comment or let me know in a Tweet! Now on to the fun stuff!

  1. My favourite food is applesauce! I love it because it works as a condiment, a side dish, or a snack! Truly an all-in-one, ultra-versatile deal. Unfortunately because of my absolutely terrible memory I never get to eat it because I don’t ever go down the snack aisle at the store! A tragedy if I ever heard one.
  2. I always feel like I’m about to be late for SOMETHING, but I never know what! It’s like having a built-in Rememberall at all times!
  3. My minor is in English literary studies, and I’m so so so thankful for my literary education! I feel like I talk about my anthropology education all the time, and never enough about my other interests!
  4. My favourite colour is purple! That said, I never seem to buy purple things. I’d love to rectify this, but there are so many other colours I love that I don’t want to ignore either!
  5. Despite all my dog-related Tweets my favourite animals are actually turtles! That is, if I even have a favourite animal (all animals are good in their own ways)!
  6. I used to wear lolita! I fell out of the lifestyle when I began living my life more authentically with respect to my gender identity because I couldn’t parse for myself that type of hyper-feminine presentation with my non-binary-ness. I’ve since discovered this is an absolutely bullshit reason to quit doing anything you love, and I’d love to get back into it when I finish up my degree!
  7. I drink iced coffee and frozen drinks year-round despite living through snow every year because I always run super warm! What would be a fever for most people is pretty much par-for-the-course for me, so I have to cool down somehow!
  8. I can’t sleep if I don’t have at least two (read: 2) comforters folded upon themselves on my feet at night. Yes, even in the Summer! I’ve looked into weighted blankets before, but I’ve thus far found the cost prohibitive. I’d like to take up sewing now that I have a Craftsy Unlimited account, though, so if I ever get around to borrowing my sisfriend’s sewing machine I’ll definitely be trying to DIY my way through!
  9. My glasses don’t actually do anything! I had a mass last year in my left eye that ended up changing my prescription literally overnight, and I just haven’t had the money to replace my lenses yet! I tried going without glasses for a couple of days when it first happened, but my anxiety got the better of me when people started asking where they went so back on my face they’ve gone!
  10. I’m honestly a mostly open book, so thinking up this list has been super dang hard! I’ve kept to myself for most of my life, and in the last couple of years I’ve been making a conscious effort to begin working to talk about myself and my interests more and more. While I live with anxiety every day, working through small things (like openness!) has been invaluable for me in working to live comfortably with myself.

What are some things people might be surprised to learn about you? Let me know! I look forward to reading your comments here and on Twitter!


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