From April, 2019

Fast Trip, Long Drop as Video Support Group

You have to tell your own history to make it advance. And so the point, I think, of remembering is to reinvent ourselves. –Jean Carlomusto in Fast Trip, Long Drop   Video never blossomed into humanity’s emancipator. It did not connect people by their nervous systems, eclipsing modern woes with a collective “global village.” Instead, video in its “guerilla” form fell victim to the machinery of the capitalist system—the very monolith it vowed to tackle. At least, that’s the narrative underlying many writers’ works on the subject in the 1980s.[1] These authors, though varying in degree of pessimism, maintain a…

Psychological Solipsism and Salvation in Schnitzler

Vienna at the turn of the century witnessed a newly evolved variation on the old Protagorean mantra, “Man is the measure of all things.” As Carl E. Schorske explains in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, “psychological man” now occupied that central, precarious position in the age-old search for truth. Political and social dissonance, coupled with a new aesthetic and understanding of reality, spawned a movement inward—into the psyche—among the Viennese intelligentsia. Channeling much of its artistic and scientific energies inward, a generation of creative thinkers expressed the, often bleak, ramifications of “psychological man” in various ways. Arthur Schnitzler, the son of a bourgeois…

The Missing Voice in Bruce Lenthall’s Radio’s America

In Radio’s America, Bruce Lenthall uproots his reader from the 21st century, propelling her into the Depression era and the dawn of modern mass culture. Lenthall discusses the complex arena of American society during the 1930s and 1940s, an amorphous domain that continually blurs the once distinct lines of the public and private spheres. Radio, Lenthall claims, propagated and sustained a new mode of discussion—one that enabled a few voices to influence the masses at unprecedented levels. The reader gains insight into radio’s communicative implications through different key players: public intellectuals, political figures, students of communication, aural artists, and citizens…

Cloacal Imagery and the Development of Artist and Text in Joyce’s Portrait

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man contains an orgy of sensations. Writing in the early 20th century, Joyce touched a nerve in his readership through his liberal use of cloacal imagery. More than an exercise in inclusive realism, writing raw, seemingly unpleasant sensory facts into the bildungsroman serves to highlight a key aspect in Stephen Dedalus’ development as an artist. A crisis of identity afflicts the novel’s protagonist, as he struggles with various social institutions over ownership of his self, oscillating between extremes of mind and body to stake his claim. Stephen fixates on and…

The Pious Philosopher

Plato’s Apology and Crito provide complicated concepts regarding Socrates’ obligation to the Athenian polis and the democratic ideal of nomos. In both dialogues, the reader gleans instances in which Socrates professes condemnation of the majority, pitting it against the just and reasonable. Despite his distrust of Athenian democracy, Socrates accepts his fate at the hands of this very institution, thereby exemplifying an ultimate act of faith or piety. This willful leap into death, however, is more a redemption of the just philosopher than that of the pious citizen. Though he rarely explicitly chastises Athenian democracy, Socrates’ makes telling remarks in…

Bret Carroll’s Spiritualism in Antebellum America: A History Review

Bret E. Carroll’s Spiritualism in Antebellum America seeks to establish American Spiritualism as a unique, new religion of the 19th century. Though scholars often analyze the movement in relation to the cultural and economic changes of the time, Carroll argues for a more inclusive study of Spiritualists’ religious, theological, and ideological impetuses. The former approaches, he acknowledges, are equally crucial to understanding the movement in its full context, but ignoring the “religious and theological questions”—the ideological needs common to antebellum Americans in general—threatens to preclude defining Spiritualism as a “significant phenomenon in American culture”.1 Spiritualism, the author argues, was an important…

Surpassing the Impasse of Racism in Derrick Bell’s And We Are Not Saved

Derrick Bell argues in And We Are Not Saved that racism courses thickly through America’s blood. Majoritarian at its core, the country’s democratic capitalist society precludes equality in any true sense of the word. Indeed, Bell guides his readers through a bleak, sobering tour of the undergirding subjugation of black Americans—the dominant system’s very sustenance. Unraveling these depressing details throughout the book’s Chronicles, Bell concludes with a chapter titled, “Salvation for All: The Ultimate Civil Rights Strategy.” Here, Bell capitalizes on his literary methodology, guiding his readers to an aporetic state in order to point towards a potential light at…

Individualism as Illness and Antidote in Guinier’s The Tyranny of the Majority

In The Tyranny of the Majority, Lani Guinier lays a foundation for bottom-up empowerment in electoral and legislative systems. Rigid adherence to winner-take-all majority rule contorts and rips at the seams of an intrinsically organic and fluid structure. That is, humans comprise the body politic; not only is forcing amorphous interests, identities, and experiences into a rectilinear mold absurd, it is dangerous and oppressive, especially for historically marginalized minorities. Implicit in the majority’s electoral strategy is wholesale attachment to individualism that reigns over group- and community-based interests. Righting the wrongs of the current “I win, you lose” system requires a…

Gradational Functionalism and Qualia

The homunculi-headed robot, a thought experiment in philosophy of mind, constitutes a system that is in fact a mind capable of experiencing qualitative states, or “qualia”. (1) I will discuss the arguments put forward by Ned Block (1978), viz. the Absent Qualia Argument in regards to functionalism. (2) Playing the role of the functionalist, I will argue that the causal roles the homunculi occupy in a system and those occupied by the firing of neurons in a brain offer no substantial differentiation by which to accept Block’s prima facie counter-example argument. Providing another counter-example to Block’s counter-example, I argue that…

Ineluctable Modality of the Empathetic: Extra-Linguistic Empathy in Joyce’s Ulysses

“What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus James Joyce’s Ulysses points up language’s limits and empathy’s extra-linguistic nature to lay the ground for a robust understanding of human relationships. Intersubjective connections remain conspicuously ambiguous throughout the novel, in content and form, exposing the flaws inherent in looking to language as a sufficient communicative link between people. Empathy serves as a nebulous bridge, attaining a status that transcends Joyce’s work by virtue of its intertextuality and ambiguity, working to unite the disparate parties involved in all aspects of the modern novel. Two chapters, “Proteus” and…