ENGLISH MIDTERM NOTES
The Widening Gyre
PEPSI Myths of modernity:
- Attempt to move to a place not yet reached
- Encourage us to make impulsive decisions for short-term gain.
- Offer escape from negative affect, but it shields us from feelings we need to grow
- False certitude: “just the way things are”
- We need better questions, not answers.
- Essentialism – things have some fundamental essence that can be discerned – gets
replaced by constructivism – a sense that meaning is inherent in the thing, and has been
placed there for us for what we need to see.
o Marx’s Das Kapital, an economic theory with a constructivist approach: people
weren’t wealthy because of God, but because of aristocratic “blood.”
- Thinking has been placed with ideology, we define our actual existence using imagined
o Our choice is to face reality and cope with it or find a way to further protect
ourselves by our ideologies
o Dorian Gray tries to preserve his good looks instead of finding other things that
give him worth.
- Aristocracy to Meritocracy – from getting what you inherit, to getting what you earn.
- Superstructure, an apparent reality, formed by an invisible [through ideology]
“infrastructure” or actual power behind it.
o Dorian Gray’s victims ruin themselves but do not recognize the infrastructure and
as to why exactly they ruin themselves.
Age of Anxiety
- Because morals and ethics are not quantifiable
o Conscience is a liability (Dorian Gray).
o The worst are filled with passionate intensity and the best lack all conviction
o We are in the Matrix, waiting for a pill to let us see reality. Theology is overcome
by idealogy. o Imagined relationship because our actual existence. We feel happy only when our
imaginings are in sync.
o We either face reality, or dig deeper into an imaginary protective cocoon of
- The point is no longer “are you right or wrong” but rather “are you persuasive or not?”
- Internal states must be expressed in a way that will make an impression
- Reality is your edited version of what is real
- Traumatic Events: event too painful to be felt at the time they occur, haunt our present
consciousness and influence how we experience and see the world.
Modernity: the everyday experiences of living an increasingly global, urban, technologically
- Appear natural because
o [Naturalization] They seem natural according to the order of things
o [Historicization] They seem inevitable as the next logical step in an historical
o [Eternalization] They seem true in some sort of eternal way beyond space and
Relationship of Vampiric Self to the Other
-“instrumental rationality”—that is, of a way of thinking that assigns value and worth strictly, and
only, in terms of the degree of profit that might be extracted. – Marx
- Dorian gray to Sibyl Vane, Kurtz to the Congo
- Sibyl is only worth something when she performs in a way that makes Dorian feel love
- There must be something above and beyond that must fundamentally determine the
nature of things. If one gets lost, this transcendent standard will guide you back to itself.
- If lost, this means you can’t differentiate between where you are and where you should
The Second Coming – Yeats
- Anxiety, loss of transcendental certitude and loss in faith in any clear central command
- “rough beast” suggest we will not get what we pray for but what we construct and
Dover Beach – Matthew Arnold
- Compares loss of faith (or transcendental certitude) with the receding sea of faith - Age of Science: Nature now appears mechanical and therefore disenchanted
- “Ah love”
o From morals to the individual
Do unto others as you would have them do to you
o from eternal time to irretrievable time
Dorian gray: when his youth passes he is doomed
Age of Anxiety
o Increased pressure placed on our intimate relationships
Losing My Religion:
- Dorian Gray: “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight”
Principles: guidelines to our choices and actions that we consult independent of the circumstances
we might find ourselves in; they safeguard us against unforeseen consequences
- Dorian Gray: too young to be clear of his principles.
- Both Dorian Gray and Kurtz have opportunities to rethink their self-serving idealism, but
after some time there is no turning back from consequence of action.
- Underlying events and ideologies of a superstructure
- MARX: the power and control exerted by the owners of the means of production
- DARWIN: natural selection
- NIETZSCHE: confusion caused by death of God
- FREUD: the unconscious
Dorian Gray’s FIVE moments of uncertainty.
These moments were chances he had to grow as a human but he ignored them due to the
painting acting as his conscience instead of Dorian Gray himself.
Each moment contributes to his “WIDENING GYRE”
Chose to be “COMFORTABLY NUMB” and in turn wounding his soul without knowing it
1. He gives his soul to stay young, wishing the picture to grow older instead
- Consequence: Vampiric relationship of self to other
- He did not love Sibyl, but loved what she did for him. Sibyl was everything Dorian was, but
innocent. To him, Sibyl was nothing if she couldn’t act well.
2. He agrees that Sibyl Vane was just a ‘marvelous experience’ and goes in quest of more
such experiences (at the other person’s expense [vampiric relationship of self to other])
- The painting had made Dorian realize how cruel he was to Sibyl. He wrote a letter which
provides himself forgiveness. He didn’t really care about Sibyl, he cared about the
condition of his soul. - He thought he could use the painting as a guide through life.
- Harry convinces Dorian to forget Sibyl and goes on to say she never existed.
- Real, Lord Henry says, is not things or people themselves but how they make you feel [Loss
of transcendental certitude]
- Loses his chance at developing empathy (capacity to feel another’s feelings) and sympathy
(desire to help) – both are roots of compassion (caring about someone)
3. He shoes the portrait to Basil Hallward but then kills him because of his horrified reaction.
After, he blackmails a former friend to disperse of the body (friend commits suicide)
- This is a failed confession by Dorian (He wants to prove Basils’ aesthetic ideals wrong).
Lord Henry tells us later that there is a heaven and hell in each of us. Basil refused to
acknowledge any “hell,” this failing to warn Dorian against Henry or himself.
- “Confession” is the desire to start over.
- He knows forgiveness is impossible, so he stays in denial.
- He opts for forgetfulness through opium
4. Attempting to return to his “rose-white boyhood” by not seducing Hetty Merton
- He stops trying to seduce Hetty Merton to show his virtue by sparing her.
- Sparing Hetty is just another new way to enjoy himself.
- He has no authentication centre; no genuine regret; no compassion for another; he spared
Hetty for his sake, not hers.
5. Still pursuing pleasure, Dorian Gray destroys the painting in an attempt to perfect his life
and get rid of his conscience.
- The Dorian that lay dead on the floor has not lived a single moment after his wish because
he didn’t do anything of significance or authentic value afterwards.
- He became a zombie. Mindless, repetitive and with unappeased hunger. Only recognizable
through his wealth and class (the rings he had on his finger).
- The ideal remains on the portrait, Dorian’s body registers all of his denied sins
Heart of Darkness
- We the readers are imperial subject approaching the novel as new land
- Marlow cannot stay comfortably numb, he does not stay oblivious but he has painful
- Kurtz and Dorian avoid feeling by seeking addictive dynamics to leave them comfortably
o Dorian is addicted to pleasure, opium, to his manipulative power games
o Kurtz is addicted to his noble enterprise, acquiring ivory, and his fantasy being a
God over the natives.
- Western Society is made possible because of Congo’s sacrifice o The people in society act naturally, but Lord Henry states “being natural is an