Monday, April 26, 2010

Frantz Fanon Documentary (1996)

For more info about the film see IMDB page here

Frantz Fanon Documentary - Black Skin, White Mask - 1/5

Frantz Fanon Documentary - Black Skin, White Mask - 2/5

Frantz Fanon Documentary - Black Skin, White Mask - 3/5

Frantz Fanon Documentary - Black Skin, White Mask - 4/5

Frantz Fanon Documentary - Black Skin, White Mask - 5/5

Short student made bio on Simone de Beauvoir

This is a very short, fun intro to her life. The maker has gathered several nice images of Beauvoir and Sartre.

"The Triumph of the Will" or Leni Loves Adolph

The Triumph of the Will, Film by Leni Riefenstahl
Entire film posted to Youtube

Excellent explanatory article on the film from
THE HISTORY PLACE is posted below.

Most religious movements and political dynasties throughout history have had one city that could be called the focal point, or heart, of the movement - Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople and so forth. For the Nazis, the heart of their movement was the magnificent medieval city of Nuremberg, symbolizing the link between Germany's Gothic past and its Nazi future.

Each September, a pilgrimage was held in which followers gathered from all over the Reich to participate in torchlight marches and solemn ceremonies honoring fallen Nazis. There were also big military-style parades, and most important of all, a chance to see the Führer in person.

In September 1934, American journalist William L. Shirer had just arrived in Germany to work as a reporter for the Hearst Company. He proceeded to keep a diary of the entire seven years he spent reporting from inside Hitler's Reich.

Shirer thought it would be a good idea to attend the 1934 Nuremberg Rally to better understand the Nazi phenomenon. On his very first evening in the old city, he found himself accidentally stuck among a throng of ten thousand people in front of Hitler's hotel, shouting: "We want our Führer!"

"I was a little shocked at the faces," Shirer wrote in his diary, "when Hitler finally appeared on the balcony for a moment. They reminded me of the crazed expressions I once saw in the back country of Louisiana on the faces of some Holy Rollers...they looked up at him as if he were a Messiah, their faces transformed into something positively inhuman."

The next morning, Shirer was among the attendees at the Rally's opening ceremony, held inside a large hall on the outskirts of Nuremberg. It was Shirer's first experience with Nazi pomp and pageantry.

"I am beginning to comprehend," he wrote, "some of the reasons for Hitler's astounding success. Borrowing a chapter from the Roman [Catholic] church, he is restoring pageantry and color and mysticism to the drab lives of 20th Century Germans. This morning's opening meeting...was more than a gorgeous show; it also had something of the mysticism and religious fervor of an Easter or Christmas Mass in a great Gothic cathedral. The hall was a sea of brightly colored flags. Even Hitler's arrival was made dramatic. The band stopped playing. There was a hush over the thirty thousand people packed in the hall. Then the band struck up the Badenweiler March...Hitler appeared in the back of the auditorium and followed by his aides, Göring, Goebbels, Hess, Himmler and the others, he slowly strode down the long center aisle while thirty thousand hands were raised in salute."

To Shirer, the intoxicating atmosphere inside the hall was such that "every word dropped by Hitler seemed like an inspired word from on high. Man's - or at least the German's - critical faculty is swept away at such moments, and every lie pronounced is accepted as high truth itself."

It was during this opening meeting that Hitler's victorious proclamation was read: "The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years."

At Hitler's personal request, a 31-year-old actress and movie director named Leni Riefenstahl was filming the entire week-long Rally. Utilizing thirty film cameras and 120 technicians, she produced an extraordinary film record of the festivities, featuring many unique camera angles and dramatic lighting effects.

Riefenstahl's finished masterpiece, Triumph of the Will, contains many impressive scenes, but perhaps none more powerful than the scene in which Hitler, Himmler, and the new SA leader, Viktor Lutze, walk down a wide aisle in the center of Nuremberg stadium flanked on either side by gigantic formations of Nazis in perfectly aligned columns.

In previous years, the three men walking that path would have been Hitler, Himmler and Röhm. But the troublesome Röhm was now dead, replaced by the dutiful and lackluster Lutze. Back in February, it had been Lutze who told Hitler about Röhm's comments concerning "that ridiculous corporal." For his steadfast loyalty, Lutze was given command of the SA with strict orders from Hitler to keep the Brownshirts firmly in line.

On Sunday, September 9, during the Rally, Hitler faced a mass gathering of his SA Brownshirts for the first time since the Night of the Long Knives. In scenes well-documented by Riefenstahl's cameras, about 50,000 Brownshirts stood in neat formations and listened to a slightly edgy Hitler attempt to patch things up. Interestingly, the film also shows a huge cordon of SS guards in attendance.

"Men of the SA and SS," Hitler bellowed from the podium, "a few months ago a black shadow spread over the movement. Neither the SA, nor any other institution of the Party, has anything to do with this shadow. They are all deceived who believe that even one crack has occurred in the structure of our united movement...Only a lunatic or deliberate liar could think that I, or anybody, would ever intend to dissolve what we ourselves have built up over many long years...In the past you have proved your loyalty to me a thousandfold, and it cannot and will not be different in the future."

Thus Hitler absolved the SA membership from any complicity in the events precipitating the blood purge. And amid a hearty chorus of 'Sieg Heils,' the Brownshirts sounded their approval. Any concerns over possible trouble from the SA during the Rally had been unfounded.

Riefenstahl's film next shows a lengthy sequence featuring the grand finale parade, and concludes with Hitler's speech at the closing ceremony in which he labels the Rally "a most impressive display of political power." Hitler goes on to declare the Nazi Party "will be unchangeable in its doctrine, hard as steel in its organization, supple and adaptable in its tactics. In its entity, however, it will be like a religious order..."

For many Germans, a trip to the Nuremberg Rally was indeed a religious-like experience and they returned home with renewed dedication to the Nazi cause and increased devotion to their Führer.

Upon the very first screening of Triumph of the Will in 1936 the Nazis knew they had struck propaganda gold. The film played to packed movie theaters throughout Germany. For her efforts, Riefenstahl received a Cultural Achievement award from Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry. The film also won a gold medal for its artistry at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris.

The legacy of Triumph of the Will lives on today in the numerous TV documentaries concerning the Nazi era which replay portions of the film in regard to Hitler's early days, or show snippets of euphoric Hitler Youth, or the SS goose-stepping smartly on parade.

The film's most enduring and dangerous illusion is that Nazi Germany was a super-organized state that, although evil in nature, was impressive nonetheless.

In reality, Nazi Germany was only well organized to the degree that it was a murderous police state. The actual Reich government was a tangled mess of inefficient agencies and overlapping bureaucracies led by ruthless men who had little, if any, professional administrative abilities. From the Reich's first hours in January 1933 until the end in May 1945, various departmental leaders battled each other for power, and would do anything to curry favor with a superior Nazi authority and especially with Hitler, the ultimate authority. Hence, they would all become enthusiastic cogs in the Führer's war and extermination machines.

In 1934, over a million Germans had participated in the hugely successful Nuremberg Rally. And from this point onward, the rallies got even bigger. The following year, 1935, is remembered for the special announcements concerning the status of Jews in Germany. These new rules became known as the Nuremberg Laws and for the Jews of Europe would one day be a matter of life and death.

Copyright © 2001 The History Place™ All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reading Questions, 11 (Beauvoir and Fanon)

Some reading questions for this week. Those of you who are curious about the philosophical concepts behind these works (and want it now!) can look here (not for the faint of heart). Neither text requires extra material to be understood; they might demand a bit of extra time, however...

1. What does it mean for Beauvoir to say that woman is “the Other”?

2. Why is it tempting “to forgo liberty and become a thing” (48)? Is that temptation unique to women? What, according to Beauvoir, is the problem with giving in to that temptation?

3. On pp. 50-51. Beauvoir offers a short history of “the woman question.” If she’s right about this, how do the steps she charts relate to one or two key developments we’ve discussed in the course so far?

4. On 55, we come to her theory of freedom: this is short but very important.
First, look up “transcendence” and “immanence.” [“En-soi” means “in itself.” for French existentialists, for a thing to be merely “in itself” (like a plant or animal) was contrasted to the way a human being could and should be “for itself” (pour soi), by having his or her own self-determined projects and goals in life.]
Now, why does the way men treat women as objects deny their freedom? On what basis can Beauvoir call this an “absolute evil”?

5. Writing in 1952, Fanon aims “to liberate the black man from himself.” Why (and from what, exactly) does the black man need liberation?

6. How does Fanon describe the experience of being looked at, as a black man, by others? What are the effects of this experience on him?

7. Fanon tells us about several different efforts he made—through cultural and philosophical projects—to respond to this experience. Explain one or two of these. Why was he “disillusioned” over and over again?

8. What, according to Fanon, are the similarities and differences between the status of the Jew, the woman, and the black man? How does his view on this issue compare to Beauvoir’s? Where in all this is the black woman?

9. Are Beauvoir and Fanon able to turn the philosophical tools of modernity toward a concrete social-political project in promotion of freedom? That is, are these texts calls to action or cries of despair? Or both?

10. "Beauvoir and Fanon are the intellectual heirs of Nietzsche, but managed to take his thought in directions he could not have imagined." Agree or disagree.

Some questions from Group 10:

1. What is the importance of Franz Fanon’s term “Rhythm?” How does it relate to rationality and irrationality? (Fanon, 102)

2. What is the power behind the term "We?" Why do women not refer to themselves as we? (Beauvoir, 46).

3. What does Fanon mean here: “[without] a black past, without a black future, it was impossible for me to live my blackness” (117)? How do rhythm and history fit in to this idea?

4. Why does Fanon refer to his work as “a clinical study”? How and why does he feel that this is necessary? (Hint: Freud) (xvi)

5. Discuss how both works act as a critique of language. How is language used to marginalize one group of people while empowering another group?

6. What does Fanon mean when he writes, “[from] one day to the next, the Blacks have had to deal with two systems of references”? (90)

7. What, in de Beauvoir's argument, makes women different from "the American Negroes or the Jews” (46)?

8. In both de Beauvior and Fanon’s writing they speak about the “Other.” Is their meaning the same or different?

9. What is the significance of the Jew in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Documentary Film- "One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin" (1993)

Walter Benjamin
July 15, 1892 - September 27, 1940
card catalogue of the Bibiothèque National, 1932
photo by Gisèle Freund

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin (1993)
Directed by John Hughes (Australian filmmaker)
On Youtube in 6 parts
With Anson Rabinbach (Princeton University), Michael Jennings (Princeton University), Lindsay Waters (Harvard University Press, Executive Editor for the Humanities), Susan Buck-Morss (Cornell University),
Dani Karavan (Environmental Sculptor), Elizabeth Young-Bruehl (Columbia University), Dagmara Kimele

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 1/6

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 2/6

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 3/6

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 4/6

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 5/6

One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin - Part 6/6

Benjamin's Recipe for "Withered Aura Soufflé"

THE AURA - From the BBC TV special "How to Build a Medieval Cathedral"

THE WORK OF ART - 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art
by Philip Scott Johnson

THE MASSES - Scenes from the film "Baraka"

MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION - 1947 public service film

THE CAMERA'S EYE - Newly discovered footage of SF Market street, days before the 1906earthquake

AESTHETICIZED POLITICS (FASCISM)- Opening scene of Leni Riefenstahl's film "Olympiad"

POLITICIZED AESTHETICS (COMMUNISM)- Montage of various Soviet propaganda posters

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reading Questions, 10 (Modernism, Masses, the State)

From pre-WWI Vienna to Nazi Germany, this week reveals a lot of highly politicized concern with the arts. But who thought the arts were really so important, and why?

1. Why are Loos's (offensive) observations on "primitive" peoples and criminals relevant to a discussion of modern architecture? Is this just provocation? What else is at stake?

2. The German Werkbund (see more here) was an association of artists, craftsmen, and industrialists who sought to create new ways of collaborating in order to forge a modern, national style in everything from furniture and silverware to architecture. What are the core concerns behind van de Velde's objections to Muthesius's vision for the Werkbund?

3. What is significant about the way Gropius wanted to link the arts and the crafts (or "applied arts")? The Bauhaus, as he points out, resulted from just such a merger. Was it political to do this?

4. In Schlemmer's Bauhaus manifesto, how does he portray the cultural crisis of the age? How was an art school supposed to respond to that?

5. Why, according to Benjamin, does fascism (by which he means also Nazism) make the political aesthetic? What does that mean? Why, from a Marxist-leftist point of view, is that a bad thing?

6. How are the tasks of the modern artist or writer in the USSR and Nazi Germany, as presented by Zhdanov and Hitler, different? What deeper differences between the two regimes do these differences reflect?

7. How are the tasks of the modern artist or writer in the USSR and Nazi Germany, as presented by Zhdanov and Hitler, similar? What broad concerns about culture do the two regimes seem to have in common?

And now, some questions from Group 9:

1. In Adolf Loos’ article “Ornament and Crime,” he wrote that ornament was “produced by criminals.” What do you think he meant by this? How could ornamentation be “criminal” towards art, economy, and health?

2. What were the chief aims and beliefs of Muthesius and Van de Velde concerning the artistic disposition of the members of the Werkbund? What, if anything, did they agree on within the “Werkbund theses and antitheses?”

3. Whose main viewpoint, Muthesius's or Van de Velde's, would most likely satisfy the artistic demands of Hitler and his House of German Art?

4. Given the era in Weimar when the Bauhaus was established, how were the artistic beliefs of the Bauhaus representative of erecting a "cathedral of Socialism"? In what ways did the Bauhaus provide a direct political commentary? (Schlemmer, pg 69)

5. In Werner Graeff’s document, “The new engineer is coming,” what was the impact of the Bauhaus movement on artistic expression during that period of time? In Graeff’s eyes, how did the blurring lines between art, architecture, and design help turn artists into “engineers?”

6. What did Zhdanov interpret Stalin to mean when he claimed Soviet literature writers were, "the engineers of human souls?" How did he explain the context of socialist realism in Soviet literature? (Pg 225)

7. What was Hitler’s vision for the art that should be displayed at the opening of the House of German Art? How does this vision enhance nationalistic feelings, as well as propagandist motives, that were both beginning to run rampant in Germany at this time?

8. What did Hitler feel the purpose of art was in regards to the portrayal of the German people? How did Hitler’s beliefs create schisms between the artistic community and the Nazi regime in regards to creativity and freedom of expression during this time?

9. Adolf Hitler, in his speech at the opening of the House of German Art, is quoted as saying, “the artist does not create for the artist, but for the people!” How could this curtailing of artistic expression possibly have benefited Hitler’s motives as well as the German people at this time?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Woolf asks if Shakespeare had had a sister...what then?

Portrait of Virginia Woolf, by her sister Vanessa Bell

Shakespeare's Sister from "A Room of One's Own" (1929)

It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare.

Let me imagine, since the facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let us say. Shakespeare himself went, very probably - his mother was an heiress - to the grammar school, where he may have learnt Latin - Ovid, Virgin and Horace - and the elements of grammar and logic. He was, it is well known, a wild boy who poached rabbits, perhaps shot a deer, and had, rather sooner than he should have done, to marry a woman in the neighborhood, who bore him a child rather quicker than was right. That escapade sent him to seek his fortune in London. He had, it seemed, a taste for the theatre; he began by holding horses at the stage door. Very soon he got work in the theatre, became a successful actor, and lived at the hub of the universe, meeting everybody, knowing everybody, practicing his art on the boards, exercising his wits in the streets, and even getting access to the palace of the queen.

Meanwhile his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother's perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers. They would have spoken sharply but kindly, for they were substantial people who knew the conditions of life for a woman and loved their daughter - indeed, more likely than not she was the apple of her father's eye. Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly, but was careful to hide them or set fire to them. Soon, however, before she was out of her teens, she was to be betrothed to the son of a neighboring wool-stapler. She cried out that marriage was hateful to her, and for that she was severely beaten by her father. Then he ceased to scold her. He begged her instead not to hurt him, not to shame him in this matter of her marriage. He would give her a chain of beads or a fine petticoat, he said; and there were tears in his eyes. How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart? The force of her own gift alone drove her to it. She made up a small parcel of her belongings, let herself down by a rope one summer's night and took the road to London. She was not seventeen. The birds that sang in the hedge were not more musical than she was. She had the quickest fancy, a gift like her brother's, for the tune of words. Like him, she had a taste for the theatre. She stood at the stage door; she wanted to act, she said. Men laughed in her face. The manager - a fat, loose-lipped man - guffawed. He bellowed something about poodles dancing and women acting - no woman, he said, could possibly be an actress. He hinted - you can imagine what. She could get no training in her craft. Could she even seek her dinner in a tavern or roam the streets at midnight? Yet her genius was for fiction and lusted to feed abundantly upon the lives of men and women and the study of their ways. At last - for she was very young, oddly like Shakespeare the poet in her face, with the same grey eyes and rounded brows - at last Nick Greene the actor-manager took pity on her; she found herself with child by that gentleman and so - who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body? - killed herself one winter's night and lies buried at some crossroads where the omnibuses now stop outside the Elephant and Castle.

That, more or less, is how the story would run, I think, if a woman in Shakespeare's day had had Shakespeare's genius.

But for my part, I agree with the deceased bishop, if such he was - it is unthinkable that any woman in Shakespeare's day should have had Shakespeare's genius. For genius like Shakespeare's is not born among labouring, uneducated, servile people. It was not born in England among the Saxons and the Britons. It is not born today among the working classes. How, then, could it have been born among women whose work began, according to Professor Trevelyan, almost before they were out of the nursery, who were forced to it by their parents and held to it by all the power of law and custom? Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. Now and again an Emily Bronte or a Robert Burns blazes out and proves its presence. But certainly it never got itself on to paper. When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. It was a woman Edward Fitzgerald, I think, suggested who made the ballads and the folk-songs, crooning them to her children, beguiling her spinning with them, on the length of the winter's night.

This may be true or it may be false - who can say? - but what is true in it, so it seemed to me, reviewing the story of Shakespeare's sister as I had made it, is that any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at. For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. No girl could have walked to London and stood at a stage door and forced her way into the presence of actor-managers without doing herself a violence and suffering an anguish which may have been irrational - for chastity may be a fetish invented by certain societies for unknown reasons - but were none the less inevitable. Chastity has then, it has even now, a religious importance in a woman's life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest. To have lived a free life in London in the sixteenth century would have meant for a woman who was a poet and playwright a nervous stress and dilemma which might well have killed her. Had she survived, whatever she had written would have been twisted and deformed, issuing from a strained and morbid imagination. And undoubtedly, I thought, looking at the shelf where there are no plays by women, her work would have gone unsigned. That refuge she would have sought certainly. It was the relic of the sense of chastity that dictated anonymity to women even so late as the nineteenth century. Currer Bell, George Eliot, George Sand, all the victims of inner strife as their writings prove, sought ineffectively to veil themselves by using the name of a man. Thus they did homage to the convention, which if not implanted by the other sex was liberally encouraged by them, that publicity in women is detestable. Anonymity runs in their blood....

The Cosmic YES!!! Molly Bloom's Soliloquy

Here are two video excerpts with Angeline Ball as Molly Bloom, the lusty wife of Leopold Bloom the protagonist of James Joyce's novel ULYSSES (1922). Molly Bloom's Soliloquy is perhaps the most famous section of the book.

Like the writings of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce's ULYSSES helped to solidify the extraordinary early 20th C. style of novel writing known as stream-of-consciousness. Thoughts of every sort- memories, fantasies, alternative experiences, regrets- merge with the emotions and the sensations of the body to convey the very real, confounding experience of being alive.

Do you sense any connection between the stream-of-consciousness method of conveying events and the cinematic art of montage? Do you think these bring us closer to how we actually experience the world? Or is it possible that we now experience the world in a more cinematic way because of changes in the styles of literature and the century long dominance of cinema with its quick cutting and optical flights from one scene to the next? Does the cinematic eye which moves at the speed of thought affect the modern human gaze and its expectation for what it will witness in the world?

Molly Bloom's Soliloquy is both deliciously erotic and incredibly moving stuff (the novel was first published in 1922!). James Joyce battled with censors at home and abroad for years due to the sexual frankness (and physical honesty) of his work. Molly Bloom lays abed thinking about a million things. Consider WHY this text is so shocking (in style as well as in substance). Consider how its frank discussion of taboo topics relates to its ability to move us emotionally. Consider how its fresh and fearless style can still startle us intellectually.

One last thought: how does this relate to Freud? Molly pours forth her heart and soul and reveals her deepest desires. She considers out-loud (though this is actually an interior monologue) the ramifications of her drives and choices. Is this an example of "the talking cure"? It would be interesting to know how much of Freud James Joyce had read and more importantly what Joyce thought of Freud's work.

It appears that these two are connected by common creative, intellectual and cultural queries.

This is a recent production for Irish television which has received wide acclaim. Enjoy! YES!



Virginia Speaks: "A word is not a single and separate entity..."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reading Questions, 9 (The New Woman: Woolf and Hermann)

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

Two of the great problems of the twentieth century; gender equality and war. But how exactly are they related?

[Three explanatory notes: on Guineas, see here. "KC" means "King's Counsel" (title for an experienced attorney). On women at Cambridge, see the history of Girton College.]

Study Questions:

1. What constitutes gender equality for Woolf? She wrote this book some 20 years after the opening of the processions to women and the attainment of women's suffrage. What difference has that made? Is liberal-political equality enough? (Recall how Marx demanded economic rights and equality in addition to purely political equality.)

2. How do you evaluate Woolf's argument that it is men rather than women who are attracted by finery, ceremony, etc? Woolf refused several honorary degrees; why do people really want those letters after their names?

3. What about Woolf's connection of men and war, and her reference to war as a source that produces good male qualities? Does this make us view Nietzsche or Freud's views on values or drives differently? That is, were they only ever talking about men's values, men's drives?

4. How about her even more dramatic assertions (p. 103) about the relationship between tyranny (especially fascism -- it is 1938 after all) and the oppression of women? What is her argument here? Does it stand up to scrutiny?

5. We've talked about nationalism and national identity, but what actually constitutes or creates loyalty to the nation? What does Woolf's view of women as "outsiders" do to the idea of women as equal citizens of the nation? If women have no stake in society, do they also have no obligations to the social contract? What about other "outsiders"?

6. How, according to Woolf, can women and other "outsiders" become insiders? How would society and the modern nation-state change if they did?

7. What for Woolf is the boundary between public and private? Is the private world the source of positive values, or is it only the result of exclusion from public power?

8. Elsa Hermann ("This is the New Woman") presents the new woman as a by-product of modernization. Do she and Woolf agree on the sources of change in gender relations? If not, how do their views contrast?

And now, some questions from this week's group....

1. In "This is the New Woman," Hermann notes that the "woman of yesterday was intent on the future", whereas the "woman of today is oriented exclusively toward the present". What are the characteristics of this new self-orientation, and what is the woman of today's ultimate goal in this?

2. Are there any similarities that can be drawn between Woolf and some of the other readings that we have done thus this semester? If so, with whom and why? If not, how is Woolf different?

3. What social role does Woolf place in the clothing of men and women ? How important do you feel this role is in her discussion and compare with atmosphere in current times?

4. For Woolf, how does education of the private house limit the influence of women? Do women have any influence through this type of education?

5. How does Woolf see the education of women outside the home as a way of preventing war? How can not educating women be viewed as in favor of war?

6. When the discussion of the salaries of women are brought up, what are a few of the injustices listed? Have you seen similar occurrences more modern history?

7. What does Woolf mean by "freedom from unreal loyalties" (78)? Describe how women in the professions can maintain this and the other related teachers of women, unlike professional men.

8. In Three Guineas , Woolf presents the scenario of "some daughter of an educated man who has enough to live upon and can read and write for her own pleasure", making it a crucial point to "take in three dailies" (newspapers) to "know the facts" (95). For Woolf, why is the examination of 3 sources necessary, and how is this belief reverberated throughout the text itself.

9. Why is Woolf so offended at the idea of protecting cultural and intellectual liberty? How does this affect her views on scholarships being awarded to women? What methods does she use to get this point across to the reader?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Maps & Metaphors of the Collective: What Are "WE"?

The fate of nations is intimately bound up with their powers of reproduction. All nations and all empires first felt decadence gnawing at them when their birth rate fell off. - Benito Mussolini

In reading many different political thinkers from Mill to Mussolini we see that the metaphors that people use to describe their communities ultimately influence how they think about those communities. Nations and societies are often considered as material constructions (We are building our society. The fabric of our nation is fraying). Likewise they are imagined to be organic bodies or collective lifeforms or giant bodies (Our society is sick. We must strengthen our community.)

Watch these images of the process of organic development and decay. Is it any wonder that we get lost in our metaphors? A nation, a society, a community is intangible as a whole. How else are we to speak about it without employing the images drawn from our experience of more delineated "things"? But there is danger here- for a society is NOT a fabric, nor a body nor a building... and yet we speak as if it was and forget that the map is NOT the territory.

The images of groups in synchronized movement (be they Nazi Germans,contemporary American soldiers or Chinese performers at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics) resemble collective bodies. Each person is, to a certain degree, sublimating his or her individual will to the will of the many- becoming one as a cell becomes part of a colony, a body. Similarly, maps remind us that the boundaries of nations, empires and states are forever in flux... like puddles forming and drying up. Perhaps it is impossible to speak of such things without metaphor.

Declensions of Decline or Where are we going and why are we in this hand-basket?

Below is a selection of books that do one of two things: they either employ the ideas of decline, decadence and fall in their attempt to understand "Western civilization" or they trace the history of this idea over time in the Western intellectual-cultural tradition. Click on the covers to be taken to that particular book at Googlebooks or Amazon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the Eyes of Dix and Grosz: War and Weimar

The German artists Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959) captured the horrors of World War I and the spiraling euphoria and eventual collapse of the Weimar Republic. Usually classified as Expressionists, both men are also considered members of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement which sought to bring out greater "realism" in the objects being portrayed. Both men are satirists and have a pretty low opinion of human beings. What similarities can you see between the images they create of war and those of high-living (or low-living) German society? Do these images convey a cohesive philosophy in regard to who/what human beings are? Are there any similarities to the visual critique of German culture offered by Dix and Grosz and the authors we've read? The first American restrospective of Dix's work is now on at the Neue Galerie in New York City.


The Salon, oil on canvas, 1921

Beauty, oil on canvas, 1922

Machine-gun Squad Advances (Somme, November 1916), drawing,
from the 1924 series The War (Der Krieg).

Take a look here for more than 100 artworks created in response to World War I.

Lustmurder, watercolor, 1922(?)


Suicide, oil on canvas, 1916

A Winter's Tale, oil on canvas, 1917

A Writer is He?, pen and ink, 1934

Eclipse of the Sun, oil on canvas, 1926

The Survivor, oil on canvas, 1944

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reading Questions, 8 (Post-WWI Crisis, Freud to Mussolini)

Here are questions from me; below, some from the good people of Group 7.

1. What, according to Freud, has been the effect of WWI on European society? What seems to have been the effect on Freud's ideas?

2. If Freud is right here, what is the status of the moral world of nineteenth-century bourgeois Europe? Why was it able to be shaken so easily?

3. In light of your own experience, do you think the Western attitude to death has changed so much since 1915? Have we (as a society) responded to Freud's suggestions in the second essay?

4. "To tolerate life remains," Freud writes, "the first duty of all living beings" (299). Do his conclusion help us tolerate life, or are they intolerable?

5. Identify and discuss one or two broad themes that you think link the texts from Germany's Weimar Republic (1918-1933).

6. One gets the impression from these Weimar-era texts that the war itself destroyed everything. Do any of these texts suggest why the conflict was able to be so disruptive to cultural and intellectual life? Do you have a theory of why that was the case?

7. Mussolini's essay on the Doctrine of Fascism, co-written with neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, is from 1932, a full decade since Mussolini had come to power. How does Mussolini explain that fact? What does that fact suggest to you?

8. What is the Fascist definition of the ("ethical"?) State, and how does that relate to concepts we've dealt with so far, like (pick one): liberty, equality, democracy, nation, individual, nature, etc.?

9. What is Fascism's position in history, and what philosophy of history is it based on? What seem to be the main intellectual influences here?


1) How does Marinetti's idea of art differ from what Hesse's thoughts on what the art of his time has become?

2) What does Spengler think about Imperialism ?

3) According to Hesse, what is becoming of religion? (could be a separate question) What is the purpose of a culture in his time?

4) What is the difference of thought between the young and the old of the present time?

5) How does Fascism differ from Classical Liberalism and/or Democracy according to Mussolini?

6) Describe Fascism's relationship with Positivism (or materialism) in Mussolini's text?

7) What does Freud say are the consequences of the "tightening of the moral standard" (pg. 284)?

8) What events and ideas led the primeval man to begin assuming other forms of existence and life after death (292-294)?

9) Are there themes in Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals that emerge in either of the two Freud texts? How are they similar? Different?