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Lecture

ENGA11H3 Lecture Notes - Wallace Stevens, Industrial Revolution, Designer Baby


Department
English
Course Code
ENGA11H3
Professor
Garry Leonard

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ALL FIVE OF THESE POINTS, PLUS NEW ONES, WILL CONTINUE TO BE OPERATIVE IN
EVERY WORK WE READ, AND IN THE MOVIE WE VIEW (VERTIGO)
1. waiting is an awareness of being brought on by an absence of doing. Formerly, we
believed “essence” or “the soul” preceded existence and it was the purpose of
“existence “ to discover the worth of the soul. The events of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and
the holocaust obliterated this notion of an essential goodness and “essence” was
then seen as a retrospective myth of origin set up to bestow a fictional coherency on
the otherwise debilitating randomness of experience. Science and technology are the
twin myths of origin in our time, and, like all myths of origin, they exert a constant
influence on current reality and plans for the future by appearing to be something
that sets up a path into the future. In reality, we mortgage our future to the myth of
origin and keep assuming a continued loyalty to the myth is the only way to solve
current problems. Technology is not about gadgets, it is a way of thinking that can
only view surroundings as a resource to be utilized or destroyed. Humanity itself
becomes just another resource, to be broken down and processed, as the holocaust
makes unbearably clear.
The assumption essence precedes existence once offered a moral, ethical and
psychological foundation for existence; what we might call "An Age of Faith". The
reversal of this--existence precedes essence-- exposes "essence" as a myth of origin
we formulate to rationalize our existence. As myth, it recedes from conscious
consideration and henceforth our actions appear somehow "inevitable" when, in fact,
they are undertaken to protect our myth of origin from being exposed. . This makes
us vulnerable to various manipulations since anyone who can convince us of what our
"essence" is, will be able to direct our behavior and tell us what is "right" and
"wrong".
This means the "Top down" behavioral system based on morals is replaced by an
inter-relational ethics where we behave as we would wish other people to behave. but
this is more "voluntary" than a moral system with its assumption of certain
punishment, eventually (judgment day) if we flout the oral laws. The events of World
War II made it clear this voluntary system was quite fragile and horrors could be
perpetuated on other people who were judged less than human.
that there is no guaranteed essence from which existence precedes(formerly
understood as the "soul" eternally residing in the temporal body); we are thrown into
existence by entering a world of meanings already present before we arrive and from
that we formulate myths about our essence. so we need to be careful how these
myths and beliefs form, and what they "mean" as they will determine how we
organize our existence. So less interest in WHAT things mean and more on HOW they
mean. We need to challenge the quality of our belief systems--what do they permit us
to do? what do they prevent? as Wallace Stevens says, "it is the belief and not the
God that matters". Historically, all this comes about after the horror of the holocaust
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