Wednesday, 25 May 2016

“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”


           A model commentary to Cormac McCarthy's quotation (The Road, 2007), courtesy of Maria Inês.

 O excerto apresentado pertence a uma fala da personagem Ely num momento em que este questiona duas noções bastante importantes na literatura e pensamento americanos que se encontram interligadas. Primeiro, o conceito do “amanhã/manhã” como espaço de recomeço e possibilidade. Segundo, a ideia de que cada indivíduo no espaço americano importa e que pode realmente fazer a diferença, “It didn’t even know they were there.” Desta forma, dois importantes conceitos são questionados através da personagem Ely.
            Esta desconfiança e questionamento de grandes narrativas, típicos do pós-modernismo, podem ser encontrados em outras obras da literatura pós-modernista americana como, por exemplo, “This Property is Condemned” de Tennessee Williams. Nesta obra, o tema da mobilidade e fluidez social, da moralidade e inocência sulistas, e dos fortes valores familiares são questionados ao sermos brevemente apresentados a Willie e à história da sua família, condenada a viver numa propriedade onde qualquer oportunidade de mudança acaba frustrada.
            Um outro exemplo, em que a Verdade é relativizada, é no conto “Recitatif” de Toni Morrison. Onde a narrativa é condicionada pela percepção de quem a constrói, mostrando que não existe uma única Verdade, mas diversas Verdades. Neste conto, o mesmo evento é relatado cinco vezes distintas, sempre de forma diferente, acrescentado ou alterando certos detalhes, demonstrando como o passado é apenas uma narrativa construída subjectivamente.
            Por fim, um outro exemplo literário, que explicitamente questiona as narrativas construídas em volta do passado, é o texto “After Life” de Joan Didion. Nesta “memoir”, Didion expõe a natureza duvidosa/incerta do passado que constrói, colocando o leitor numa posição em que este(a) se encontra consciente de que a narrativa apresentada é uma construção profundamente marcada pela experiência emocional da autora dos eventos relatados. Esta “re-evaluation of and a dialogue with the past in the light of the present” (Hutcheon, 1988) é tornada clara no texto de Didion através da utilização de expressões de modalização e metalinguagem, “I considered adding these words” (Didion, 2005).
            Para concluir, no excerto apresentado, o mesmo questionamento proveniente de uma atitude de relativização e desconfiança perante grandes narrativas pode ser encontrado, pois duas importantes noções para a construção da América como conceito estão a ser questionadas. Tal como nas três obras já mencionadas, Cormac McCarthy utiliza o conceito do “amanhã” para o subverter, assim como desacredita a ideia da excepcionalidade e potencialidade do indivíduo nos EUA.
Nota: O excerto citado de Linda Hutcheon provém da sua obra A Poetics of Modernism (1988).

Monday, 9 May 2016

Feminist Waves, Historical Landmarks

A very good site on Feminism, where you might be especially interested in the division between the 3 waves of feminism: http://www.gender.cawater-info.net/knowledge_base/rubricator/feminism_e.htm


1st Wave
1848: Lucretia Mott e Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention

1919: passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote in all states.


------
1953: Publication of the English translation of Simone Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949) - "one is not born a woman, one becomes a woman"


2nd Wave
1963: Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique

1966: Twenty-eight women founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to function as a civil rights organization for women. 

1968:  Robin Morgan led members of New York Radical Women to protest the Miss America Pageant of 1968, which they decried as sexist and racist

1971: Adrienne Rich, "When we Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision"; Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father
 
1972: Maria Velho da Costa, Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, Novas Cartas Portuguesas

1974: Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
-----------------
 
 1979: Margaret Thatcher, first female prime minister in the UK

1985: Guerrilla Girls






3rd Wave
The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities.


Homework for May 12, 2016

Read the poems "Diving into the Wreck" and "Power" by Adrienne Rich, in your anthology, and comment on any of them, with relations to the essay "When We Dead Awaken" (but not only, of course)




Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Adrienne Rich, part VII of the sequence "Sources" in

VII
 
For years I struggled with you: your categories, your theories, your will, the cruelty which came inextricable from your love. For years all arguments I carried on in my head were with you. I saw myself, the eldest daughter raised as a son, taught to study but not to pray, taught to hold reading and writing sacred: the eldest daughter in a house with no son, she who must overthrow the father, take what he taught her and use it against him. All this in a castle of air, the floating world of the assimilated who know and deny they will always be aliens.
 
After your death I met you again as the face of patriarchy, could name at last precisely the principle you embodied, there was an ideology at last which let me dispose of you, identify the suffering you caused, hate you righteously as part of a system, the kingdom of the fathers. I saw the power and arrogance of the male as your true watermark; I did not see beneath it the suffering of the Jew, the alien stamp you bore, because you had deliberately arranged that it should be invisible to me. It is only, under a powerful, womanly lens, that I can decipher your suffering and deny no part of my own.



In Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems (1986)

Adrienne Rich, "Planetarium" (1971)

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster   
a monster in the shape of a woman   
the skies are full of them

a woman      ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments   
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover   
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled   
like us
levitating into the night sky   
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness   
ribs chilled   
in those spaces    of the mind

An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus

         I am bombarded yet         I stand

I have been standing all my life in the   
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most   
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep      so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15   
years to travel through me       And has   
taken      I am an instrument in the shape   
of a woman trying to translate pulsations   
into images    for the relief of the body   
and the reconstruction of the mind.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Closing Statement - Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a disillusioned book, offering little hope for redemption (Gonçalo and Olga)


Gostaríamos de lembrar que ao longo de séculos de história da humanidade e de literatura, se esperaram e escreveram vários apocalipses. Alguns exemplos foram a peste durante a Idade Média, o fatídico ano 2000 que levou ao suicídio de inúmeras pessoas por temerem o desconhecido, as próprias grandes guerras Mundiais, foram encaradas como o fim da Humanidade como a reconhecemos e até a Bíblia fala em apocalipse e como procurar o caminho para a redenção. Existe assim também um conceito de Pessimismo Cultural, um seguimento do declínio da humanidade que se torna a certo ponto irreversível. No entanto, todos estes obstáculos foram ultrapassados por se acreditar na fé das pessoas, fosse ela religiosa ou apenas interior em como algo de bom poderia acontecer. Seguir o “caminho dos bons” não é mais do que ser fiel a valores e éticas que nos são transmitidos por qualquer sociedade. Para ultrapassar todos estes obstáculos, as pessoas tiveram de se unir e ser solidárias. Manter a esperança é a forma de caminhar para a redenção; logo, sem esperança, resta a exaustão.
Nietzche propõe que cada um deve ter os seus próprios valores e ser julgado de acordo com os mesmos. Perante os dilemas morais e na ausência de Deus, o Homem e o Rapaz são os criadores do seu próprio significado de sagrado. “Where you’ve nothing else construct the ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.”
Acreditamos por isso que The Road poderia ter um caminho diferente caso o pai não se tivesse desviado dos seus valores morais e tivesse posto em prática aqueles que ensinou ao filho através das suas histórias. Desta forma, talvez no final o pai acompanhasse o filho no caminho para a redenção e não falecesse pelo cansaço como tantos outros na estrada.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

End of the World Disaster Theories


End of the World Disaster Theories
 Particle Accelerators
Physicists have long theorized that particle accelerators could destroy the earth. When electric fields are used to accelerate protons they could collide at speed fast enough to create black holes or bits of altered matter. These small black holes would slowly engulf our planet. The pieces of altered matter, called strangeletes, would destroy any ordinary matter they came in contact with, eventually annihilating the entire planet. Although most scientists assure that none of the particle accelerators being used at the present are strong enough to bring about these events they are unsure of the abilities of the newest accelerator being built. Currently, over two-thousand physicists from thirty-four countries, universities and laboratories are aiding in the construction of The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) located near Geneva, Switzerland. It is scheduled to begin experimentation in May 2008. It is hoped that if black holes are produced they will be small enough to evaporate, but only time will tell.
 

Rogue Black Holes
Although the concept of black holes was conceived in 1915 by Einstein (some may argue earlier) they were not accepted as fact until Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose proved their existence in 1970. From this point on black holes have been looked at with a sense of awe and fear; a place from which nothing can escape, not even light. Even scarier is the fact that our galaxy is full of collapsed stars waiting to turn into black holes, some astronomers estimate there are as many as 10 million. Luckily, most black holes are in orbit around other astronomical masses. However, if one of these black holes was able to pull itself away from orbit and head towards earth we would be clueless since they are almost impossible to see. The black hole wouldn't even have to come very close to earth to wreak havoc, if it even entered our solar system it would distort all planetary orbits causing extreme climate changes, and even expel some planets from the system.

 Gamma-Ray Burst
Gamma-ray bursts are extremely powerful, estimated to have 10 quadrillion times more energy than our sun. They are created by the collision of two collapsed stars. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to visualize collapsed stars making it even more difficult to predict the location of a gamma-ray burst. A burst 1,000 light years from the earth (further away than most of our stars) would create an explosion as bright as our sun and bring a hasty destruction to earth. Although our atmosphere and the ozone would provide protection at first it would soon be cooked away by the radiation. UV rays would kill the photosynthetic plankton in the ocean, which provide most of the earth's oxygen. At least one burst can be seen each day when watching our sky with gamma-ray vision; it can't be too long before there is one closer to home.
 
 Omega Point
This term describes the ultimate maximum level of complexity-consciousness. Philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin believed that the universe is continuously working towards this point. The socialization of humankind, including creating more complex forms of communication and information exchange, increases the collective consciousness of the human race. Just as human beings can self-reflect, one day too the universe will hit the critical Omega Point and the collective consciousness of humankind will be able to reflect upon itself. This divine center of consciousness will draw together the entire universe and end the world as we know it.


Bubble Nucleation
According to the leading cosmological model the universe began as a false vacuum of empty space filled with energy. This incredibly unstable, high-energy state went through the process of bubble nucleation to reach a more stable, lower-energy state. This huge release of energy caused the expansion of the universe. We would like to think that the world we now live in is a stable true vacuum but it is possible that although the universe is at a lower energy level now than it was before, we are living in another false vacuum which could collapse at any moment. If a low energy bubble nucleates in our false vacuum it would expand at the speed of light, once again changing the universe.
Divine Intervention
As with all end of the world theories it's impossible to know if divine intervention is a feasible end of the world scenario. Despite its lack of scientific evidence it gains validity through strong support. Christians look to the Book of Revelation, Jews to the Book of Daniel, and Muslims believe that the coming of Mahdi will bring the end. All religions have a similar story: a divine force will intervene in the world to bring our history to an end and start a new moral order. Even non-believers have something to worry about since some doomsday groups decide to take these matters into their own hands. For example, the Aum Shinri Kyo sect that released Sarin nerve gas into a Tokyo subway station in 1995, killing 12 and injuring more than 5,000. Imagine what would happen if these groups got their hands on more powerful weapons.

Solar Activity (Super-Flares and Decreased Activity)
The sun emits solar flares, also known as coronal mass ejections, towards earth frequently. These flares are large magnetic outbursts which contain high-speed subatomic particles. Luckily, earth's atmosphere and magnetic field protect us from the consequences of these potentially lethal flares. However, evidence has been found that sun-like stars far from our solar system can briefly increase in brightness by 20 times. It is hypothesized that these increases are caused by super-flares, which are millions of times more powerful than the common solar flare. If our sun were to emit one of these super-flares it would literally fry the earth. On the other hand, if our sun's activity were to decrease by a mere 1% (which has been known to happen to many sun-like stars) we would be flung back into another ice age.
Aliens Attack The Earth
The chance of encountering intelligent extraterrestrial life becomes greater every day. As of January 8, 2008, 217 planets have been discovered outside of our solar system and 2-3 new ones are found each month. Famous astronomer Carl Sagan believed there to be billions upon billions of planets in the universe. With such high numbers it is hard, if not impossible, to believe that there is no intelligent life in the universe besides human and that an alien invasion and destruction of Earth is impossible. It is theorized that it would not be a conflict between humans and aliens that would cause lead to our end but that the aliens would exploit Earth for her resources or merely disrupt the planet by mistake.


Global War
Although, tensions between world groups wax and wane causing the public to frequently go from worrying about a global war to forgetting about it, global war is a constant threat. It is believed that there are at least 20,000 active nuclear weapons in the world. A malicious use of these weapons or even an accidental nuclear exchange or misfire could be disastrous for the planet. Even more worrisome should be the treat of biological warfare. Using killer germs is cheap, they are also easy to produce and conceal. Even scarier, they can become impossible to control.
Ecosystem Collapse
Our biodiversity is vanishing. At least 30,000 new species become extinct each year, a higher rate than ever before in history. Every single organism on the planet is integrally intertwined with the life of others. To make our life easier in the here and now we are slashing and burning forests, slaughtering animals, transporting organisms from their original ecosystem to others, and introducing synthetic materials into the environment, just to name a few. We are already upsetting the checks and balances of the global ecosystem but have not yet seen a devastating consequence such as the extinction of pollinating insects leading to widespread crop failure and the eventual starvation of humans. Ecologist use the imagery of a "marginal tree," that once cut will throw our planet into chaos to explain the unpredictability of a cataclysmic ecological collapse.




Monday, 2 May 2016

Cormac McCarthy, "Child of God" (1973) - excerpt

THEY WASN’T NONE OF EM any account that I ever heard of. I remember his grandaddy, name was Leland, he was gettin a war pension as a old man. Died back in the late twenties. Was supposed to of been in the Union Army. It was a known fact he didn’t do nothin the whole war but scout the bushes. They come lookin for him two or three times. Hell, he never did go to war. Old man Cameron tells this and I don’t know what cause he’d have to lie. Said they come out there to get Leland Ballard and while they was huntin him in the barn and smokehouse and all he slipped down out of the bushes to where their horses was at and cut the leather off the sergeant’s saddle to halfsole his shoes with.
No, I don’t know how he got that pension. Lied to em, I reckon. Sevier County put more men in the Union Army than it had registered voters but he wasn’t one of em. He was just the only one had brass enough to ast for a pension.
I’ll tell you one thing he was if he wasn’t no soldier. He was a by god White Cap.
O yes. He was that. Had a younger brother was one too that run off from here about that time. It’s a known fact he was hanged in Hattiesburg Mississippi. Goes to show it ain’t just the place. He’d of been hanged no matter where he lived.
I’ll say one thing about Lester though. You can trace em back to Adam if you want and goddamn if he didn’t outstrip em all.
That’s the god’s truth.
Talkin about Lester …
You all talk about him. I got supper waitin on me at the house.