Comments: Art. Rape. Politics. Gender. Power: a reflection

That was very impressive, RP! I like how your "random" thoughts were so leading, and how the pseudo-analysis was cloaked in suggestion and insinuation. Bravo! Now please undo it so nobody takes it seriously!

Posted by GrammarQueen at August 31, 2004 09:08 AM

Hey, you're not so far off! I Googled munch scream patriarchy and here's one of the hits, a paper for Assistant Professor of English Alice den Otter's class in critical theory at Lakehead University in Ontario, on Lacan and the pondering of yellow wallpaper...that's right, yellow wallpaper:

Indeed, the disaffection undergone by our narrator is akin to the alienation felt by the subject of post-industrial capital. She describes the form of the yellow wallpaper in terms of reminiscent of the chaos of modern society:

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough constantly to irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide- plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard- of contradictions. (618)

The patriarchal symbolic eternally and ubiquitously renders her aggravated and fragmented. Its "isolated columns of fatuity" (621), rob her of any agency, and leave her to "exhaust" herself "trying to distinguish the order" (621). Further, this "interminably grotesque" (622) formation calls to mind Edward Munch's painting "The Scream" in ways it echoes the vicissitudes of modern life…

There is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind. The colour is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing. You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well under was in following it, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream. (623)

In these various ways the androcentrism of the patriarchal symbolic rob Gilman's protagonist of her autonomy and afflict her subjecthood. However, utmost in Gilman's agenda is exposing the ways in which phallogocentrism posits scripted gender roles which further destroy the independence of our narrator, and, by implication, of all women.

And here's some literary theory from honorary research fellow Chris Pawling at Sheffield Hallam U in the UK:

One way of responding to such narratives is to locate them within the context of a "postmodern" culture in which, to quote Fredric Jameson, the characteristic feature is a "waning of affect" (10). Jameson develops this point by comparing the aesthetic "depthlessness" of postmodernist art with that of a "high modernist" icon, such as Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream." In Munch's emblem of the "age of anxiety," "the thematics of alienation, anomie, solitude, social fragmentation and isolation" are rendered formally through an "aesthetic of expression" which has disappeared from postmodernism. Munch's painting "presupposes ... some separation within the subject ... of the wordless pain within the monad and the moment in which, often cathartically, that "emotion" is then projected out and externalised, as gesture or cry, as desperate communication and the outward dramatization of feeling" (Jameson 11-12). By contrast, in postmodernist art this "aesthetic of expression" seems to have "vanished away" and we are faced with "a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense" (Jameson 9).

There's more. Rather parodies itself, doesn't it? You may have the makings of a new parlor game – just do a search on Munch and, say, phallogocentrism or monad, and see what surfaces!

Posted by Mark C N Sullivan at August 31, 2004 10:11 AM

I don't much care for yellow wall paper myself, come to think of it. It oppresses me.

Truly, I'm kind of frightened to hear that I was so close. Maybe I should listen to GQ and pull the whole thing down.

Posted by RP at August 31, 2004 10:58 AM

Fascinating! Indeed, you have the makings of a fine art critic!

Posted by Mick at August 31, 2004 01:47 PM

jaw drops

I cannot believe I dropped into your comments to cite the drearily analyzed-to-death "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Gilman only to find Mark beat me to it.

I loved reading "The Yellow Wallpaper", but then, I read it on my own, because I chose to do so, not because it was an assignment. And not because I had to search for the reasoning behind the story.

A friend of mine had to read it in school, however, and was forced to dissect it to death for days, both on paper and in class discussion. She hates the damn thing now.

Too bad, I like the story, very much. Well done story of a woman slowly going insane. Creepy as hell.

Good post, Random!

Posted by Amber at August 31, 2004 02:45 PM

I laughed my pants off when I saw "teleological" and "pseudo-sexual". Well done! This reminds me of things I read while in grad school. Ever thought of reentering the academic field as a ghost writer?

Posted by Mandalei at August 31, 2004 04:10 PM

Ok, Mandalei, that would be fun, but where's the money going to come from? Those guys are not exactly flush with cash for the most part, are they?

Thanks, Amber and Mick, I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was scary how easily it came out.

Posted by rp at September 1, 2004 01:23 PM

I've profited very much by reading this short essay (and the Jameson-based comments!) and think you should continue it (if you have time/desire). I would just like to add one short comment, though, on something which I think is often forgotten. The fact is that (and you undoubtedly already know this, but as I say, one forgets) everyone starts out as a woman. Just the other day I was reminded of this in an article in the online version of the L.A. Times, where Susan Brink noted how "The first surge of testosterone happens in the uterus, a few weeks into development, causing an embryo with the XY combination of chromosomes to develop male sex organs." What would seem to be the case, then, or an interesting part of the case, is that, as Shelley thought, we are all artists, which is to say creators of many things, from multinationals to oil paintings. Well, actually, from paintings to multinationals is probably what I mean. Thanks for the analyses on Munch!

Posted by Bill at October 30, 2005 09:04 AM
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