Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hermeneutics: theory of interpretation

     One overall opinion that I got from Gadamer’s article was that his understanding and application of hermeneutics is somewhat contradictory. He argues one point then seemingly disproves it in the next sentence. It attempts to suggest that there is no ultimate or definite answer. I found it a bit unnerving at first because I wanted some sort of final answer; however, upon further reflection it seems Gadamer believes interpretation is a matter of personal opinion. One particular quote that comes to mind, “the hermeneutically enlightened conscious seems to me to establish a higher truth in that it draws itself into its own reflection” (94). Prompting internal reflection within oneself is of course essential in interpretation. Gadamer focus in hermeneutics is incredibly difficult because so much personal reflection is present.
      In regards to Pettersson’s opinion that interpretation involves outer influences beyond oneself, one of the points that Gadamer made comes to mind. He explains, “‘Choosing’ one’s words in an appearance or effect created in communication when speaking is inhibited. ‘Free’ speaking flows forward in forgetfulness of oneself and in self-surrender to the subject matter made present in the medium of language. That is even true in the case of understanding written discourse…” (87). This excerpt juxtaposes the belief you describe as being held by Pettersson. Gadamer conversely explains that forgetting yourself is the only real way to interpret both written text and language.
      So many exterior and personal influences affect an individual’s interpretation. Although these two texts hold many contradictory opinions I think used together they explain two of the greatest influences types individuals undergo in interpreting. Gadamer explains the internal influences through hermeneutics and I would argue that Pettersson explicates adequately on the exterior influences.

Works Cited 
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. “Semantics and Hermeneutics.” The Scope of Hermeneutical Reflection. 1st Ed. Berkely and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977. 82-94. PDF from ENG 600: Seminar in Literary Theory online course. National University. Web. 7 Aug 2013. 

Pettersson, Torsten. “What is an Interpretation?” Types of Interpretation in the Aesthetic Disciplines. Staffan Carlshamre and Anders Pettersson, eds. 1st Ed. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. 32-51. PDF from ENG 600: Seminar in Literary Theory online course. National University. Web. 7 Aug 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Started a new blog::Blog About Inspiration

My lovely best friend Bailey and I have started a blog all about inspiration. Inspiring stories, pictures, videos, YOU NAME IT! Check it out and follow us on this link. We’d love anyone that is interested in sharing a story with us to email us at: We’d love for you to share your stories with us and share them with the world. Thanks, E

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Barbie Experience Part 2 of 5

The Comeback

I was sitting on my bed waiting for the phone to ring. I stared off into the nothingness of my plain white walls. Why is it taking so long? Why hasn’t dad called me back yet? I looked at the crib on the other side of my bedroom. The old box of baby clothes and baby books from my childhood was sitting on the carpet next to it. I wondered what she would look like; I wondered if she would like my old toys. I couldn’t wait until she was old enough to play dress up with me-no, until we could play Barbies.
I opened my closet door and pushed back my clothes to uncover my collection. The entire back wall of my closet was filled with shelves. Floor to ceiling decorated with my beautifully pristine dolls. I took one out carefully reminiscing of times when I played with them every day. Each of them perfectly intact with all of their clothes, matching shoes, and color coordinating rings.
They are arranged from oldest on the top to the newest filling out the bottom of the wall. Their perfection emanated throughout my room. I would again get to play with them. I would have a sister to share my love for these incredibly maintained possessions; my jewels.
They make me happy.
Now I’ll have an excuse to play again. I’ll be able to play again.
“What the hell is that Sara?” My cousin Jason stared at my collection from behind my open door. His footsteps had been drowned out by my dreamlike humming.
“It’s for the baby genius!" I closed my closet door hastily and shoved him out of my room into the hallway. "My dad made that for me when I was little. I was going to throw them away but with the baby coming—”
“Rightttttt. Well you’re dad just called." My eyes widened and lips parted into a grin before I could stop them. "It’s a boy.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Barbie Experience Part 1 of 5

The Original

The year was 1959. My mother and I walked to the drugstore to get cigarettes. That was the first time I saw her.
She was beautiful, she was perfect. “Mommy, mommy look!” I tugged at her jacket sleeve for her attention.
My mother brushed me off with the usual remark, “Oh that’s nice dear, but we don’t have time to play. Come along now.” I kept on with her strength overpowering mine. I either abandon my arm or play along; either way I was defeated. Why didn’t she see the importance in it? The single most beautiful thing in my entire life; she had to be mine.
I tried to show her to my mother after we left the drug store, to explain to her that she was perfect in every way. I needed her. She responded, “You have plenty of dolls at home Catherine. You don’t need another.” She placed the cigarette in her mouth and lit a match then grabbed my hand and continued back towards home. But I couldn’t let her go. She was too beautiful, too perfect.
I went home and flipped through the penny saver, I knew that she had to be in there and if I could save up enough I would buy her myself. I ripped the page out of the paper and kept it in my pocket then rushed to my room. I pulled the folded piece of black and white paper out of my pocket and I gazed at her.
She was like nothing I had ever seen. She wasn't like my other dolls. She was much smaller, like a doll for my doll. And made out of rubbery plastic instead of linen and cotton balls. She had beautiful blonde hair just like my aunt Suzie. But she was prettier than aunt Suzie. Her hair in a low pony tail swished to the side with perfect ringlet curled bangs. She has on a black and white stripped bathing suit and white sunglasses clasped in her right hand. Her lips were glossed in a ravishing violet with perfectly polished fire engine red finger nails. She was like the models in my mom's magazines; super models. She could even stand on her own; her legs were strong and sturdy. She came in a beautiful cardboard box, not like my other dolls wrapped up in shoe boxes with smelly reused tissue paper. Her name was written across the top of the box. I knew that she would be my favorite doll. That I had to have her. She would be mine.
My very own Barbie doll.

I'm back

Hey bloggers, it's been far too long I know. Life has been a little hectic in my last year of college but I have finally found the time to get back to it! So I was reading through some of my other fiction pieces that I haven't done much with in a while so I decided to post them on here and see what kind of feed back I get. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Final Paper Critical Theory--A Marxist view of Avatar

For this final analysis I want to analyze the movie Avatar. I am going to analyze this movie using some of the Marxist authors that we have studied throughout this summer session. The two predominate authors that I am going to focus on are Karl Marx and Louise Althusser; additionally however, a connection will also be made to Hegel in regards to Phenomenology. I seek to argue, from a Marxist viewpoint, the dangers and grave repercussions to invading a rural society for selfish monetary gain.
In the movie Avatar, the main character, Jake Sully, is a pawn in a game much larger than himself. This character, and the relationship that he has with his duty and his commanding officer, exemplifies the master/slave relationship that Hegel promotes. Hegel writes, “The lord relates himself mediately to the bondsman through a being [a thing] that is independent, for it is just this which holds the bondsman in bondage; it is his chain from which he could not break free in the struggle, thus proving himself to be dependent, to possess his independence in thinghood. But the lord is the power over this thing” (544). This quote exemplifies the relationship that Jake Sully has to his commanding officer; he desires his legs and he is promised them if he completes the mission and reports to Quaritch the Marine general. Jake is caught between two worlds; the world that he knows and the world of the unknown; Pandora. While initially Jake accepts the mission since he is promised his legs in return; as Jake progresses in fulfilling his role essentially as a spy he begins to love the indigenous people. He comes to find that he can relate better to them and understands their ways better than his own; in essence the truth begins to be revealed to him. Hegel explains truth, “The truth of the independent consciousness is accordingly the servile consciousness of the bondsman. This, it is true, appears at first outside of itself and not as the truth of self-consciousness. But just as lordship showed that its essential nature is the reverse of what it wants to be, so too servitude in its consummation will really turn into the opposite of what it immediately is; as a consciousness forced back into itself, it will withdraw into itself and be transformed into a truly independent conscious” (545). Jake reaches his full potential when he realizes that what his race is doing is wrong and fights with the indigenous against his race rather than for his race in the wrong. His race also acts as a master to which he is a slave to until he decides to break free and come into his own, to find his true identity.
A similar comparison can be made to this master/slave relationship and that is the correlation between the worker and the capitalist. Karl Marx displays a parallel relationship between the Proletarians [laborers] and the Bourgeois [Capitalists]. In this movie Jake Sully is the laborer or the Proletarian. He is owned by the Capitalist, he has no say in what goes on in the operation he is merely a pawn and is required to do what he is told. However this is not the only example of capitalism. The head scientist, Grace Augustine, that Jake Sully is working for is a laborer herself. She is in charge of creating a diplomatic solution or peaceful relocation of the Pandora natives. Nevertheless she answers to Parker, the leader of the entire Pandora operation and he is there for one reason; unobtanium. Marx explains an evolving capitalist society in his work The Communist Manifesto. He explains, “The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones” (657). The phenomenon that Marx explains is quite apparent in the movie Avatar. As the tension and fight for power increases amongst the characters in the movie the unifying element that brings each of the classes together begins to crumble. At the climax of the movie Jake Sully affiliates himself stronger with the natives than he does with his own race. This change in him creates a glitch in the entire operation. As he grows closer to the tribe he distances himself from his race more and more. The Marine general, Quaritch assumes the greatest power when he overpowers the attempts at a diplomatic solution. He gains power over Parker and his plan to move the tribe by force becomes a reality.
As previously mentioned the entire driving force behind the operation in Pandora is unobtanium; a commodity. The opinion that Marx holds about Capitalists and their obsession with commodities is prevalent in this film. Marx writes, “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere” (659). This ideology is ever apparent in the film. The whole reason that the Americans are on Pandora is purely greed. They seek unobtanium and they are not leaving until they get it. As Parker exhibits in the third scene in the movie, unobtanium is worth more than any earthly substance. Their sole reason for being on Pandora, for assimilating with the natives is for this commodity. Parker additionally gives reference to the stockholders back on earth; he says that they hate bad press but what they hate more is money lost. These stockholders are essentially the bourgeoisie back on earth, and they are governing the proletarians on Pandora for strictly monetary purposes. Marx states in this quote that Capitalists will go anywhere in the world to obtain commodities and to expand the market; this movie exemplifies that the bourgeoisie will not stop at earth. These characters will travel to distant and dangerous planets to obtain the unobtainable; to find even greater riches then can be offered on earth. Although it is a fictional movie, this is an extremely important element. Marx focuses on earthly treasures; however, if other worlds could be discovered, if other societies do exist on distant planets does it seem that farfetched that capitalists from earth would try to invade their planet and steal something valuable? Absolutely not, that is the exact depiction of a Capitalist; ruled entirely by greed and monetary gain.
Marx elaborates on this relationship between the working class and the capitalist in his work Capital. He further explains, “The Fetishism of commodities has its origin, as the foregoing analysis has already shown, in the peculiar social character of the labour that produces them” (665). This essentially means that a commodity is worth more for the labour that it takes to create or obtain it. This facet is also apparent in the movie; the Omaticaya tribe’s village rests on the largest unobtanium deposit on Pandora. This creates an ever greater demand for it because it is even more difficult to obtain. One of the largest, if not the largest tree on Pandora is where the clan’s village is stationed, directly below is the deposit of unobtanium. The American invaders are trying to peaceful relocate the natives in order to mine and take the unobtanium. The movie takes place while the attempts at a peaceful relocation are losing steam. Therefore, the relationship between the scientists and marines are growing thin, and tensions are rising. This relationship is different than the master/slave relationship in that they are more or less on equal grounds. The marines are the guns and the brawn that will take control of the operation of the scientists and diplomats fail in their attempts to peaceful alleviate the situation.
To elaborate further on Marx, in chapter ten of his work Capital he elaborates on labour-power versus labour. Marx states, “Capital cares nothing for the length of life of labour-power. All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour-power that can be rendered fluent in a workingday. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the labourer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility” (672). The Capitalist in the movie Avatar subject Jake Sully to this; they expect him to be able to convince the Omaticaya tribe to move their entire home with a limited amount of time. The irony of it all is that it is unlikely that they even think that it is possible for him to complete this mission, and for that reason they move ahead with plans without Jake completing his mission. The labour-power is based on the risk and power is necessary to obtain a commodity. Marx explains, “But the value of the labour-power includes the value of the commodities necessary for the reproduction of the worker, or for the keeping up of the working-class” (672). He further explains, “The slave-owner buys his labourer as he buys his horse” (672). Jake Sully is expendable to the Pandora operation. Quaritch explains in the second scene of the movie that not everyone will survive their tour on Pandora. Death is imminent and everyone that agrees to this condition is essentially putting his or her life on the line. Jake agrees, he is offering up his life for this mission. No although he becomes a more significant player in this Capitalist game he nevertheless is still expendable because he is still in the working-class. He is not a Capitalist, he does not have any say in how things are run he is a labourer. As Marx exemplifies all labourers are replaceable no one labourer is better than any other, they are all equal and they are all insignificant.
As the movie progresses Althusser’s argument, posed in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, becomes more relevant. Althusser exemplifies that one can seek to understand ideology by accepting that he or she is merely a subject to ideology. He also gives heed to Marx’s definition of infrastructure and superstructure, both of which are apparent in this film. Althusser explains, “Marx conceived the structure of every society as constituted by ‘levels’ or ‘instances’ articulated by a specific determination: the infrastructure, or economic based (the ‘unity’ of the productive forces and the relations of production) and the superstructure, which itself contains two ‘levels’ or ‘instances’: the politico-legal (law and the State) and ideology (the different ideologies, religious, ethical, legal political, etc.)” (1338). This quote explains that society is broken down into two parts which can then be broken down into subdivisions within those divisions. The two larger parts are the infrastructure and the superstructure; however, what is even more important are the subdivisions within the superstructure which are the State and ideologies. This quote exemplifies the importance and relevance of ideologies. In the film the role of the State is played by the invaders, or the Americans. As Althusser explains, “the State is explicitly conceived as a repressive apparatus. The State is a ‘machine’ of repression, which enables the ruling classes to ensure their domination over the working-class” (1339). This domination is exhibited in the Americans structure. Furthermore Althusser explains, “Repressive suggests that the State Apparatus in question [the State] ‘functions by violence’ at least ultimately” (1341). The most important element of this quote is that a repressive state is predicated on violence; violence is the dominating factor in differentiating repressive from a non-repressive state.
As previously mentioned Jake Sully makes up the working-class; whereas the Quaritch makes up the Capitalist power; otherwise known as the State. Jake Sully as well as the natives to Pandora are all subjects to the State. The State has power over them which essentially means that the working-class is functioning in and Ideological State Apparatus that is the State. The working-class, the labourers are the subjects and they are functioning in the ideology that they are subjects to. This ideology is the State, and the power that the State has over the working-class. The minority group or the natives and those that fight for the natives’ freedom are the working-class. All of the scientists and the peace seeking characters in the movie are the working-class. They are the ones risking their lives the try to save the natives, or to try and make peace between the natives and the invaders. The invaders, the marines, the capitalists make up the State. Essentially they are in power, they are an ideological state apparatus in that they are a controlling factor in their search for the commodity unobtanium.
As the film illustrates there is an obviously important role that the State plays in this film; however, the role that ideology plays is less evident. As this quote explains the ideological implications can range from religion to political implications. I argue that the majority of the ideological implications are offered through the Omaticaya clan. They illustrate customs and beliefs; their love for nature and for all creatures is characteristic of their culture. Additionally, in terms of religion they believe in the power of Eywa. Eywa is their deity, their God to whom they pray to and seek solace from. Adverse to Christian belief Eywa is in a sacred tree and the tree is a place where one goes to pray.
In addition to these ideologies being characterized by the Na’vi people they also characterize Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) as well. Althusser explains, “I shall call Ideological State Apparatuses a certain number of realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions” (1341). Althusser then puts a list together of examples of ISAs. Most of the examples that he gives can be exhibited in the film by the Omaticaya clan members. I have already touched on religion; education is another ISA that the Na’vi and even the working-class exemplify. When Jake Sully is being tested to see is he will be accepted as an Omaticaya he must learn. He is taught the ways of the Na’vi by one of the members of the clan. This is an important test in which all of the invaders will be judged based on his abilities. Additionally, the invaders attempt to teach the Na’vi people English and establish schools and institutions to learn their ways. Both of these are examples of education as an ISA. In both of these societies education is a fundamental aspect to fitting into the ideological depiction of that society.
Hegel, Marx, and Althusser’s opinions and thoughts are all prevalent in the movie Avatar. There are various other elements to each of their arguments that can still be exemplified. Nevertheless, it is clear that they correlate one with another, and that there are themes of each of these critical theorists and their prospective theories present in the film. This film has a deep dynamic that can find ties to any of the major critical theories that we have studied throughout this summer session. I have chosen to focus predominately on Marxism with correlations to Phenomenology as well.
Works Cited
Althusser, Louise. Ideologies and Ideological State Apparatuses. The Norton Anthology of Critical Theory & Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2010. 1335-1361.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Phenomenology of Spirits. The Norton Anthology of Critical Theory & Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2010. 541-547.
Marx, Karl. Capital. “Commodities.” The Norton Anthology of Critical Theory & Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2010. 663-671.
Marx, Karl. Capital. “The Working-Day.” The Norton Anthology of Critical Theory & Criticism 2nd Edition. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2010. 671-674.