Class Notes (808,753)
Canada (493,377)
English (1,157)

Lecture on Modernism, Intro

6 Pages
Unlock Document

Western University
English 3554E
Jonathan Boulter

September 18, 2012 -Thesis of course: loss in relationship to melancholy and mourning; and the crisis of language -T.S. Eliot argues that modern lit. has to be difficult because our culture is a difficult/complex one. -Barthes says there are texts of pleasure and bliss. The texts in this class are bliss -Pleasure: Not challenging -Bliss: Challenging texts. “the text that imposes a state of loss, the text that discomforts (unsettles the readers historical, cultural, psy- chological assumptions, the consistency of his tastes, values, memo- ries*) brings to a crisis his relation with language” Barthes -*text of bliss somehow disrupts your own memories, makes you rethink your past, rethink the story that you have told of your own life. disrupt the way you’ve been led to believe things about yourself -interpretation is a way of working through loss so it is mourning. -modern text will make us feel anxious: intensely self aware that we’re read- ing and that we’re up against the thickness of a certain kind of language. -Bataille: “literature is dangerous” -Modernist texts are resistant. They don’t invite themselves easily to be in- terpreted. -Heart of Darkness tells you how to read it, which closes off possibilities. Need to figure out how to resist the texts, read them in a way they don’t want to be read -Motto of class: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Wittgenstein 1921 -We can only think in terms of what our language gives us; we can only read the world through the language we have. If we don’t have a word to describe an experience, that experience runs the risk of slipping into meaninglessness. -Marlow runs up against the limits of his language. Kurtz represents the unknowability, the unnameable. Marlow’s attempt is to find the appropriate means to narrate his experience with Kurtz. -THere are certain experiences that can not be captured in language, therefore these things stand outside our world. -Heart of Darkness is a crisis narrative. The crisis is of language. Crisis of narrative itself, because there are certain experiences that can not be communicated -Those experiences that can not be narrated, often in modernism are the ones the need to be narrated. These are the ones that we need to experience and understand. -First World War, Second World War, Holocaust: events that we know we need to comprehend but we can’t, because we don’t have the words to describe it -“Language is not just one of man’s possessions in the world; rather, on lan- guage depends the fact that man has a world at all” Gadamer 1960 Truth and Method -What happens to a person, to a subject, who is deprived of language, who can’t talk? -Those who control language control the world. Those who are voice- less in every sense of that term have no power - Gadamer. -We need to wonder about this idea when we read Marlow. Does Mar- low have the means to narrate his experience? -Narrative: means to tell, but also to know. A narrative is a way of coming to comprehend the world. If you’re deprived of narrative you’re deprived of the means of understanding your experience. -Our knowledge of the world is largely narrative based. Stories are every- where and serve functions of knowledge. -There are ways of understanding your experience. - If you’re deprived of the means by which to narrate, what happens to the value of that experience? The experience is lost. -Heart of Darkness is complicated text. -Marlow comes up against an experience he can’t understand. He can’t quite tell the story but he can transform himself into the carrier of the memory of Kurtz. He can narrate some aspect of it, and in this sense Marlow becomes a kind of archive in which Kurtz is kept alive. -Marlow is a melancholy archive. He’s containing the dead within his narrative. -In some ways Marlow becomes Kurtz; the dead are speaking through him. He transforms himself into a voluntary archive. -Certain details about Conrad’s life that might be important: -He’s Polish, not English. -Has reputation as one of the purest, most beautiful prose writ- ers in English yet he isn’t English. He perceived himself as a kind of outsider. Although he was the best writer of english, his spoken english was marked, in his view by an almost impenetra- ble Polish accent. In his view, he felt his accent marginalized him -- radically other-ed him. Is it accidental that in his major works, there is always an other or an outsider in place? In every one of these texts of his, the outsider is marked by voice. The voice itself becomes the major theme of Conrad’s major novels. -Modernism is an international phenomenon, not something that just occurred to one place. -Conrad and “Voice” What Heart of Darkness does for us 1.It thematizes the idea of narrative and experience. It’s all about the rela- tionship of experience and the story of that experience. It is about the fail- ure for narrative to meet up with and encompass experience properly. Nar- rative makes a theme out of modernism’s central issue: event and narra- tive don’t meet. It’s a crisis narrative about the limit about what someone can know. Takes place on the limits of knowledge. 2.thematizes the process of interpretation. It’s about interpretation. It’s about hermeneutics, the process of trying to come to an understanding of an event. It’s a critique of the possibility of understanding. It is about inter- pretation, about Marlow trying to make sense of Kurtz and simultaneously showing that interpretation is impossible. What do we mean by interpreta- tion? How does meaning itself get turned into a theme and then get made into an impossibility. Heart of Darkness holds up the possibility of meaning; it’s clearly structured as a romance. LOTR there and back again kind of sto- ry. traditionally this structure ends in a discovery of some truth. Heart of Darkness is a modern romance. But at the heart, there isn’t truth or light, there’s darkness. The truth is shrouded/hidden. Text critiques the expecta- tions of interpretations. We expect things to mean. Sometimes events and experiences don’t mean anything, yet we’re unhappy with that. Sometimes meaning isn’t where you expect it to be 3.Is an exploration of the possibility of ethics (the idea of responsibility for the other, (acknowledgement, recognition, response and care for the oth- er)). Who is the other in Heart of Darkness? 4.Heart of Darkness is a systematic deconstruction/theorization of some of the central premises of Western thought. First premise: It theorizes the log- ic of oppositional thinking. Derrida says that we in the West think in binary opposition. We understand something, an event, a person, a concept, be- cause it is not something else. Nothing on it’s own signifies anything. Something only means in relation to its opposite. We may not understand the concept of man, but if we place man in opposition to woman, we can gain a better conception. We are hardwired to believe that this way of or- dering the world “is the way it is”. Derrida wants to dismantle this thinking because oppositional thinking is reductive. It reduces experience to its op- posite. Also, a thing on its own cannot be com
More Less

Related notes for English 3554E

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.