Friday, November 10, 2017

Posthumanism

Posthumanism sounds really dumb. It's like a Matrix phrase, or worse, an Alex Jones concept. But it's real meaning is pretty simple. We humans are not and have never been the top dog. We are not the center of the universe. 

So, the initial concept of posthumanism is not too difficult to grasp. Humanism believes in individual autonomy and agency. This puts human beings at the center stage, and often times at odds with the non-human, such as nature. But the posthumanists see this exceptionalism as humanism's greatest flaw. They use Derridean deconstruction to break down this framework that for so long has propped human beings above nature and instead places them within nature, as a part of the machine rather than the observer or operator. As Donna Haraway explains in her seminal The Cyborg Manifesto, humans are not set apart from the world, but "are tangled in it."

Haraway and Bertens spell out how we came to see ourselves outside of nature, and it mostly comes down to the Western Christian belief of dominion. In the Old Testament, God tells Adam that he will have dominion over the creatures and the plants and the future laffy taffy factories. So right away in Genesis, we see a deep-seeded religious belief that the Judeo-Christian is outside of his natural world, set apart and set above. This seems at odds with some of the Eastern beliefs that instead hold harmony with nature in very high regard. And if we are slated to hold dominion over the other species and over Mother Nature herself, that means we are in charge and can make decisions like cutting down the rainforest, use pesticides, hunt animals to extinction, etc, etc. I mean, the good Lord put those things here for our disposal, right? And now multiple countries who heartily dislike each other sit on an arsenal of nuclear weapons that, if used, could not only wipe us out, but wipe out much of life in general. Pretty exciting, huh?

This version of posthumanism has given rise to ecocriticism. With the same concept at heart (that humans are not the central figures in the world), ecocriticism began as a warning about the dangers of treating nature with disregard. Historically, too, nature has held a very prominent place within literature, often on one of two extremes. Many times, we see nature and love of nature as good and positive, while evil and darkness treats nature with contempt, or with TOXIC LOVE.


Bertens uses a great example from The Lord of the Rings in that Mordor is a volcanic wasteland, while the Shire is a beautiful, green and serene location. So there is this connection between nature and goodness. On the other hand, nature has been often portrayed as an enemy, or a place to be tested. J.K. Rowling's Forbidden Forest, Jack London's Yukon, Herman Melville's white whale. Regardless of its use, nature factors in greatly into literature. The ecocriticism then "seeks to evaluate texts and ideas in terms of their coherence and usefulness as responses to environmental crises." This is only natural, as we have seen generation after generation put just a little more weight on the foot that rests on the neck of the Earth. Our carbon emissions, our destruction of the forests, our using the ocean as a garbage dump--these are real crises, regardless of what the Trump administration may tell you. Then, will we look at texts and literature for answers, examples, and failures that placed humans forever above their natural habitats. And we try to solve these problems.

There is one glaring problem with these ideas: that ecocritics would then know, or have some idea of what the world really is. If we ruined the world and it must be returned to its original state, we must have some idea as to what that natural state was. But many would say that we can't really know what the world really is, or that there are so many interpretations and conceptions about the world that there's no telling what this original state could have been. For instance, if it were up to me, I would fix things to rebuild the world that I know!


One of the more popular deconstructions within posthumanism is that between organic and machine. Haraway touches on this in The Cyborg Manifesto. And I think one of the most interesting things brought up is the idea of the technology of today's language. When I send a text to a friend, it carries information and ideas through English language, but underneath it, unseen by me or the reader, is a coded language of zeros and ones. How much do we need technology now to "be" human? And if the answer is quite a bit, then how human are we really? Here I am typing this mumbo jumbo out on an expensive computer with a bunch of one's and zero's uploading my shitty ideas onto a silly blog so that I can pass a course that is taught in a language I can't even understand! WHAT A WORLD!

And lastly, I will just mention this weird connection to animals. In the same way that we have shown that humans are not above nature, we can also single out animals as specifically being attached to humans which makes us not so human. We eat them, tame them, cuddle with them, use them for work, and sometimes really weird and deranged people have sex with them! 

Gross!

Anyway, these relationships also are deconstructed and people look at literature and instead of viewing nature through the post-humanism lens, they look specifically at animals and human interaction with animals. But most animals are gross or scary, so whatever. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gender? Hardly Know Her/Him!

Here we are. We've arrived at the most sensitive topic so far: gender.

No matter what I say, I fear I will cross some lines, so let's start out on the right foot.


In the last post, we learned that gender is a performative act, as well as a social construct. To a large extent, gender studies and queer theory are extensions of feminist studies. Looking at literature through the eyes of the Others that have been marginalized under the patriarchal systems in our societies. The difference is looking more specifically at sexuality- how marginalized genders and sexual orientations are represented, or, more often than not, not represented.

The literary criticism movement sort of began with Jane Rule's The Lesbian Image in 1975. And already, there are some issues to tackle, which Hans Bertens carefully touches. Do we separate lesbian studies from gay studies, and is it the same as queer theory? Do we envelope them all in Gender studies? There are fine lines to walk here. And more importantly, how does one critically a text through these theories? Bertens asks, "when sexual orientation is invisible, how can we reconstruct a gay or lesbian literary tradition?" In other words, if a text does not specifically address gay/lesbian/queer concepts, contain a queer character, or is written by a gay/lesbian/queer author, how does this theory apply? An openly gay writer like Michael Cunningham who addresses many difficult issues attached to gay lifestyles, especially the 90's AIDS issues, lends himself and his texts very easily to gender theories. But how do we read classics like Huckleberry Finn or As I Lay Dying  through this lens? Or can we?

Part of the answer to this goes back to...you guess it...FOUCAULT! What a guy! The balance of power has, for the most part, always been tipped towards the heterosexual patriarchy. So the feminist criticism looks at texts to see what was said about women, what was not said, how they were oppressed, and how we can free them from their literary bonds. Queer theory likewise questions the status quo, only in this instance, it focuses more on traditional constructions of sexuality. Again, this may focus more on what is left out of texts. As Foucault says, there are many silences, and these silences are an important part of the discourse. Using the text itself, as well as the context surrounding the text and the author, what may have been left out, suppressed or hidden when it comes to sexuality?

Again, this is a slippery slope in that some people may find a loose thread only to pull it and find there is not much there. Can every single text be read through a queer theory? Most likely not. But, I think some texts would surprise us in regards to what could be pulled out. There are times that I roll my eyes because these are very recent concepts that have been developed (even if some form of queer identities may have existed for many, many years). So reaching back into medieval literature when people were not so accustomed to this type of personal freedom, liberation, or discourses on sexuality. How, then can the sagas be viewed through queer theory? Are we placing our modern concepts onto literature whose societies would not recognize such ideas? I think to some extent, yes. But the sagas are surprising. Loki seems to change sex at will. Thor was known to put on a dress as a goof. The Maiden Kings of the later romance sagas took on male personas and even used male pronouns and names. Króka Refs saga has some suggestive sarcastic jabs back and forth to suggest certain characters may have been in homosexual relationships. And even when sex is addressed, it is so cryptic (they "talked") that I think interpretations of certain relationships could be very different. So even though gender and queer theories are very recent, certain texts do in fact lend themselves to a re-reading. And these readings could provide incredible revelations in the masculinity-driven world of the sagas. If someone could show that gender was more fluid, or that gay or lesbian identities or relationships were possible, then our reading of the sagas could very well be changed.

AND THAT IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT, RIGHT??

Challenge the idea of literature by poking at the missing pieces and saying, what about these things that we left out? Deconstruction has its dangers, but I think in general, it can at the very least expose the discourses of power that left certain ideas and people on the margins. And maybe, just maybe, they can find a missing piece.



Feminism, But From a Male Idiot's Point of View

Let's talk about WOMEN!

Hell, yeah! Ain't nothing wrong with that!

Okay, long story short: women have not had it very easy since....well, since they were around. I mean, the first woman was blamed for everything that had gone wrong, and since then, women have been the weaker sex, the submissive partners, etc. Thus, for many hundreds and thousands of years, a woman's place has been behind or by her man's. She has been defined within a world of masculinity. Expectations of loyalty and submission are high, while opportunities outside of the family home have been traditionally few. It isn't easy being a woman. Well, don't take my word for. Take Tammy's.



Earlier female writers who pointed out inequalities and differences between sexes, like Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Stanton, have since been known as first wave feminism, while the late 60's and early '70s saw the second wave, in which a lot of theory developed. From the 1990's to the present has been known as third wave, and the theories from the 1970's have been placed alongside race and gender theories. A lot of the theories are also based on Foucault and Derrida, which, I think has become a real problem.

Look:
Feminism is important and necessary. Especially feminist literary criticism! Using Foucault's discourse on power has revealed a lot of super interesting and important ideas surrounding women in history and literature, as well as in history through literature. Part of these revelations have been part of the binary oppositions. While this certainly assists us in literary criticism on a male/female axis, it has leaked into the socio-political sphere so much so that feminism and anti-feminism have developed its own social axis. For instance, if this blog post falls into the wrong hands, there is every indication that I will be marked as anti-feminist because of my rough understanding of feminism. The power oppositions work super well in literary criticism, but I am starting to think that, especially in the United States and PARTICULARLY on social media, these binary opposites have not just settled into our social discourse but have come to define our conversations. If you voted for Trump, you are racist. If you believe in socialism, you are a communist. If you kneel during the national anthem at a sporting event, you hate the military. These binary opposites have created an impossible minefield of where people wait in anticipation for an opportunity to go be offended so that they can whip out faulty information about their opposition. It's a real mess!

But I digress.

What a lot of feminist literary criticism has in common is the (rightful) belief that women have been and continue to be oppressed by the controlling patriarchy. By exposing the patriarchal ideology, the hope is introduce a new ideology that says gender is a social construction and not determined by your biological sex.

Unfortunately, I think this is where a lot of people (not just men) get a little lost. I had a hard time slogging through Judith Butler, and even with the help of Sara Salih trying to explain everything. Just that phrase, "gender is a social construct" rings with the sort of extreme and foreign strangeness that makes a lot of men equate feminism with man-hating, or, worse, weird performance art:


So, let me try to break this down into terms that I can maybe understand. Because, I'll tell you, Butler and Salih do not make it easy to understand!

You are born with a ding dong, or you are born with a vagina (usually). These genitals determine what Eve Sedgwick has called "chromosomal sex." So this is the raw materials, the very basic platform. However, as we know, some people do not identify with this chromosomal sex. Plenty of people with ding dongs feel like they got shafted (thank you, how am I doing on time), and vice versa. We also know that there men attracted to other men and women attracted to other women, as well as men and women attracted to each other. I will skip over the Freudian explanations of all this because it gives me a god damn headache trying to sort out how I was attracted to my dad but now I am trying to fill a dad-sized hole with unrequited love of the opposite sex. Freud, you kooky son of a bitch!

So how do we make heads or tails of all of this confusion and crossed wires? Judith Butler's answer is that gender is not something that you "are" but something that you "do." Gender, then, is performative, a social act. She says that "gender is an act, or a sequence of acts, that is always and inevitably occurring." So, if I understand this correctly, your gender is a performative social act (and therefore a construction of your own making) that has nothing to do with your biological affiliation. It is hard for me to wrap my mind around what this has to do with literary criticism, but I am trying to get it. And I will discuss this sensitive topic more with just as much deftness in the next post about gender studies.


One more important aspect discussed by the brilliant Annette Kolody (who has been kind enough to answer my pestering questions over email!) is that of the canon. To me, this part of feminist theory is a universal idea that can be transferred into many different media forms. THE CHALLENGE TO THE CANON! Kolodny says literary history is a fiction. We are taught to read through paradigms rather than actually engaging with texts. So we read texts according to what we need. And what we as a society need now is much different than what a bunch of old stuffy white fuddy duddies needed when the canon was created. So, Kolodny's message is QUESTION EVERYTHING! Just because some dude said something was good once doesn't mean it is good. This can be super controversial. Questioning the timeless excellence of something like Shakespeare or The Beatles sounds like sacrilege, but it is essential and incredibly important to feminist literary criticism. They look into how aesthetic value was assigned in the first place, where that value lies and what that value means for us in our world. And even more importantly, "what ends do these judgments serve, and what conceptions of our world do they perpetuate?" In other words, why are these canonical texts celebrated, what does the text and the celebration/reception of the text say about our world, and what sort of stereotypes and conceptions do these celebrated texts put forth into our world? This is such a punk rock thing to do that it gets me so stoked! Kolodny goes on to say that questioning the canon does not diminish the value of the texts. But if the canon was mostly created when women or black authors were not looked on favorably, questioning the canon and suggesting new ideas may be the only way to get certain authors and texts their due credit.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Postcolonolololialism

Post-colonialism has become a buzz phrase recently, and not without reason. I mean, just look at the recent disaster in Puerto Rico. My Indiana representative responded to my email saying that Congress passed a number of bills that should help get some money to the dying people on the island but, like Trump, blamed the inability to help more on Puerto Rico's poor infrastructure. This failure to act is part and parcel of the United States' being an unofficial empire. Without claiming imperialism like Mother England, the U.S. is then not responsible to these middle of the road, left out to dry nations like Puerto Rico. Not a state, not my problem. More like POORTO RICO, am I right?!

All jokes aside, I have contact my representatives and governor to urge them to do more. Post-colonialism, am I right?!

Post-colonialism comes out of the ashes of the second World War, when the British empire, as well as Western certainty and confidence began to crack and splinter and (though not entirely) crumble (OR FALL) apart. Hans Bertens tells us that what Western criticism sees as universal is really just European. And in this light, literature from other cultures, particularly those cultures seen as inferior, was held at arms length and not really worthy of much notice. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, however, writers like Chinua Achebe began to publish stories and novels that combatted this Euro-centric phenomenon. And guess what! Some of it was pretty dang good!



Suddenly, the world had a new and exciting form of literature from the underdogs- the voice of the culturally displaced. And as nation after nation began to establish independence, these voices became even more essential to reclaiming what had been lost to imperialism. But it is not as simple as a classic underdog story. In many instances, during or even after imperial rule, native writers would need to travel to places like London or Paris in order to get published or be taken seriously. There is a strange dynamic between this "metropolis" concept the colonial subjects. It would be like a Puerto Rican poet having to travel to D.C. to get a book deal for his poems criticizing the failure of the U.S. government.

Tied to this concept is Said's idea of Orientalism. Said claims that the concept of the Orient was invented by the West, maintained by the West as an effective "Other" against which to assess themselves. I've often been curious about the idea of Westerners "studying" other cultures in which they stick their noses in people's everyday lives and have the tenacity to write books about these things, as if we would know how to portray cultural mainstays more so than those who practice them. What was supposed to be a discourse really became a show of power of the Western world over the Orient and the Eastern cultures.

To some extent this can be easily transferred into the study of Vikings. This term was invented by nineteenth century medieval enthusiasts. Through Wagner, comic books, and film, it is hard to shake the Americanized invention of the Vikings. And the academy certainly believes it has intellectual authority over the idea of Vikings. We will tell you what is true and what is invented when it comes to popular images. Of course, this group of people who seemed to be much more fluid and interchangeable than some think, is extinct (or, rather, domesticated). The Eastern cultures that came to define the Orient for British, French and American thinkers existed and continue to exist both outside and inside the sphere of Orientalism. So the stakes certainly aren't as high, but the invention of a term and the control over that term is consistent. Plus, the term Viking is so problematic and vague that there is no true Viking....except perhaps Cris Carter.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kvikmyndafræði: Film theory

I have always tried to stay away from film criticism, mostly because my top 5 favorite films include Home Alone 1 & 2. So what the heck do I know? In fact, I have a feeling my analysis of movies will fall well short of these two geniuses:


The two articles assigned for this topic, written by Jeffrey Geiger & R.L. Rutsky, and by Robert Stam, and they emphasized two important points for this theory: First, that films should be "read" like a text. But that, secondly, and importantly, films are both more complex and completely different than an "original" text. It becomes very fluid, and frankly very subjective to critically analyze films. Can I watch Home Alone as a text? I mean, this film is meant for giggles and good, old fashioned family fun with catch phrases and bonks on the head! But, as far as artistic value, you are going to come away fairly empty handed. Unless, of course, you appreciate the perfect physical comedy of the great Daniel Stern...but I digress.



Reading a film as a text can sound like a contradiction, especially when viewing a film through adaption theories. But as Robert Stam points out, a film adaption is often less of a resuscitation of an original text and more of an ongoing intertextual dialogue. For instance: Nobody asked for a Ghostbusters remake. The original and sequel should have been more than enough for everybody to get along with bustin' ghosts. Then everybody got up in arms because the "remake" was casted as all females. While I do have some personal thoughts on this topic as a whole that will not be addressed here, the point is that the most recent Ghostbusters should be seen as an ongoing intertextual dialogue, not a remake--a continuation, if you will, of the joyous tradition of catching spooks and spirits.

The issue, however, is that a text is a single body, albeit only in written word so that the imagination has to work to create things like settings and costume designs. A film throughs at you music and shot selection and transitions. So it becomes much more three-dimensional. And so you can have films with a great story but terrible acting (Star Wars prequels) or perfect music but kind of a dumb execution (Godzilla [1998]). On one hand, you can have one of the worst James Bond films (Goldeneye) that spawned one of the best video games, and on the other hand one of the most iconic video games that spawned a terrible (yet fascinating!) film (Super Mario Bros.). And so, as Geiger and Rutsky say, film analysis examines every little detail of the film in order to create a better understanding of the meaning.

Of course, not all films have a deeper meaning. It would be difficult to apply a Marxist or post-structuralism theory to Dude, Where's My Car? But, on the other hand, the difficult images in The Dark Knight Rises, not to mention the horrors attached to the Denver theater shooting, creates a much deeper meaning for Americans who have seen part of the population at odds with law enforcement in recent years.

One of the biggest issues plaguing film criticism is the idea of adaptions. I have read a little bit of adaption theory, mostly through Jón Karl Helgason's work on English translations of Njáls saga. And while it doesn't totally apply to what I am doing, there are still some interesting insights into how adaptations are viewed. Stam says that some things must be cut, otherwise the film adaptation of War and Peace would be 30 hours long. Is this being unfair to the "original" text? Who chooses what to cut? Your idea of what a character should look like is different than my idea. Did Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger make a better Joker, and who is to say? Some have argued that film adaptations can offer very little as far as cultural contributions. They are high on action, low on introspection. Case in point: In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film adaption, Ludo Bagman was cut out completely. This makes sense on a budget/time constraint, yet without his character's suspicious past and his attempts to assist Harry, a huge part of the mystery and Harry's inner thoughts go missing. Likewise, in the following book, The Order of the Phoenix, Harry's absolute terror of what is going on inside of him, his connection to Voldemort and his learning to face his destiny is almost completely absent from the film. Yet, what a wonderful interpretation of Delores Umbridge, and of the Weasley twins' escape. The film version of Goblet of Fire, too, presented a darker and much more intense series of events from the maze to the graveyard that I myself anticipated.

Nevertheless, it becomes a sticky business, attempting to sift through these decisions of interpretations and adaptions, editing and cutting, or adding and manipulating. The best option, according to these articles, is to view a film in a new light, as a separate entity, with the "original" text as a sort of guide, rather than a source of inspiration. This is nice, in theory, but tell that to the die hards.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Historicism

Unspoken power behind a text. That's what we are talking about in this post. Implicit power discourse. New historicism places a text firmly in history and says that it cannot separate itself from it. You know, like how early '00s emo bands were certainly influenced by both myspace and Hot Topic, even if they claimed not to be. Or how every post-9/11 super hero film is dark as hell. Signs of the times!


New Historicism as a literary theory comes from. . . you guessed it: FOUCAULT! Is there anything this guy CAN'T DO?! All his talk about power and discourse and how we are all under surveillance leaked into this postmodern understanding of literature so that new historicists would ignore the "genius of the author" and look at the text as part of its historical context.

Now, to some extent, this will always be true. I can escape my cultural and societal boundaries no better than the thirteenth-century saga compilers, the Danish quirk Ole Worm, or even Tolkein. Each of us had or has an affinity to the Old Norse sources, but our understanding and perception--and therefore our writing--remains stubbornly bound to cultures in which we were raised. Bertens discusses, however, how close this comes to Marxism. Indeed, you are getting close to sounding conspiratorial when claims of unseen themes run amok in texts. But what the historians are really saying is that everything outside of the text should also be taken into account.

Kenneth Johnston uses a great example from Wordsworth's poetry. In the past, the poem "Tintern Abbey" would be in the foreground and the focus of literary critics. Remember Arnold's holy poetry fervor? Well, we might scale that back a bit. But still, the point is to look specifically at the text. Wordsworth's notes, biographical information, political leanings, etc, would take a backseat as secondary or background information to assist in better understanding the text and author. New historicism, however, wants to take into account background and foreground and in fact compare and study both together.

This is a difficult jump to make. Again, I think we can take for granted our shaping and formulating. But to actually subconsciously (or in some cases consciously) promote a certain discourse of power? Shouldn't Huckleberry Finn be read without discussing the race relations of post-reconstruction in the American South? Well, maybe that's a bad example. I mean, can't we use the helpful contributions to Old Norse studies by Otto Brunner (whom we've discussed here before) without mentioning is Nazi sympathizing?


Here's an awfully unpleasant and embarrassing attempt of bringing Huck Finn closer to a modern audience. Enjoy!

Okay, I admit these are extreme examples, but you see the reason behind the thinking? One of the critiques Johnston hurls at New Historicism is their obsession with tangible anecdotes, which, I admit, I fell prey to during my MA thesis. For instance: When I discovered that Ralph Waldo Emerson had read and written about Heimskringla, and Thoreau mentioned once in passing the idea of Vinland, I took these threads and tried to weave together a sort of literary discourse in New England during the nineteenth century that focused on Old Norse literature. To be sure, these things were on the periphery of whatever nonsense the Transcendentalists were kicking around at the time. But it is so tantalizing, it's difficult to ignore. This is what Johnson complains about: "Interesting anecdotes need to be connected to a larger explanation." WHAT A FOOL I'VE BEEN!

More important to my field of research is this idea that comes from Foucault that the powers that be subvert smaller groups, and that texts, when picked apart (or DECONSTRUCTED) can reveal certain ideas related to this discourse of power. But when the "privileges of power" becomes the focus, the subverted groups can often become homogenized. And in a cruel twist, some scholars have suggested that dissent simply exists to justify the power and is therefore a part of the machine. However, it is difficult to ignore this approach altogether when look at Old Norse sagas, as they, themselves, are partially historicized. In fact, it is almost a necessity. Which is a total shame because some of the stories, by themselves, are tremendous. But today one does not often scrutinize the text as a text but rather search for hints and threads that can be connected to history so that generalizations can be hypothesized.

In short: it's got its ups and downs and I am fine and annoyed with it. GO AWAY LEAVE ME ALONE!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I Just Lacan't: Postmodernism at is best

In this chapter of Hans Bertens book, we cover the different aspects of postmodern theory, starting with Foucault's Panopticism. This is a strange and difficult concept, but it has to do with the fact that we are constantly under surveillance--not in an Enemy of the State kind of thing, although, I am sure that falls into this category. Bertens uses a great example from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Many of the patients at the mental hospital are there voluntarily because they saw something abnormal in themselves. In other words, they scrutinized their behavior against a backdrop of "normalcy" somehow defined by societal standards. We deeply invest in certain ideologies which then retain a certain amount of power over us.
Pretty fun, right?



So, we are looking carefully at ourselves and others for signs of abnormalities. It reminds me of when I worked as a 911 dispatcher. In the post 9-11 world, people were on their toes about everything. And Carmel and Fishers in Indiana were some of the most affluent towns in the state. Paranoid rich people with too much time on their hands would call to report a suspicious person in their backyard looking at their gas meters, with a yellow vest that read "meter reader" on the back. They were constantly on the alert for something abnormal in their neighborhoods. Within this standard of normalcy sits a large amount of power. Foucault explains that people adhere to what they are told is to be normal, thus a strong connection between knowledge and power. This is old news, right? Whoever wields the knowledge has the power. That's why teachers are so highly paid!

According to Bertens, "Foucauldian criticism focuses on the role of literary and other texts in the circulation and maintenance of social power."(147) Foucault is therefore tied up with deconstruction because in this literary theory, you look for the discourses of power in literary texts and break them down.  Not that this approach will break any chains of power but will certainly expose them. And in an ideal world it might "release us from our stilted social norms."


Lacan also concerns himself with ideology. He builds upon Freudian theories but is careful to avoid some of the blatant sexist ideas put forward by Sigmund. Without going into much detail (because you know how much I LACAN'T STAND PSYCHOLOGY), Lacan explains that when the "mirror-stage" is broken, we are left with a ruined illusion of what we thought the world was supposed to be, thus a desire for something that will never be fulfilled. Lacan says that even love is a temporary fix for this longing! He knows me so well!!
Ideology, then, is a temporary fix that fills this empty hole left behind from our mirror stage. Literary texts can be read, looking for these escapes or temporary fixes. Don't ask me how, it all sounds like a bunch of baloney to me!

Moving right along, we come to Helene Cixous and the French feminists. Coming off of the post-structuralism binary opposites, Cixous and the French feminists of the 1970s point out that the binary oppositions can be categorized as basic male/female opposites. The inferior is always associated with the feminine, while the positive and superior is consistently male. Cixous theorized that writing could perhaps expose and somewhat undo this "phallocentric" system. I think this is certainly a helpful tool. Old Norse literature often praises the masculine and uses the feminine for insults and putdowns. A lot of work has been done in this field by scholars like Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir who are digging further into gender roles and masculine system of repression expressed in the sagas.

These ideas and writers have been more or less lumped into the category of postmodernism. But what Bertens eventually tells us is that postmodern writing plays around and escapes reality. By borrowing characters from other fictional stories, refusing to give a story closure, or other various tinkering, postmodern authors are knowingly playing with understood and traditional motifs and genres in order to "deconstruct and unsettle traditional modes of fiction." (Bertens 145). It opens the audiences eyes to the construction and illusion of certain settings. This is perhaps where postmodernism because entangled with cynicism, as these authors purposefully break the rules in order to show that rules have been constructed. It's an eye roll, a goof.