Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Historical, Theory and Genre

Below is the material from the presentation on Incidents. I also added a couple of quotes from Maruice Halbwachs (for the collective memory theory) and Michel Foucault (for the bit on the panopticon). Additionally, I’ve linked below, a scan of the criticism for the historical context from the Norton Critical Edition that I used in the presentation. At the end it mentions the base for the ways you can also engage with this text from a gender study or feminist angle.



Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (**Norton Critical Edition**)


Social aspects of collective memory and their influences on identity (Compare TBG)

“Memory depends on the social environment.” (Halbwachs 37) – On Collective Memory

“Yet it is in society that people normally acquire their memories” ( Halbwachs 38) – On Collective Memory

“I learned by the talk around me, that I was a slave” (Jacobs 10).

“They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves” (Jacobs 39).


Panopticon (Compare with Tell Tale Heart, Yellow Wallpaper)

Slavery as a Panopticon

“the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” (Foucault) – Discipline & PunishThe Birth of the Prison

“This alarmed Benjamin, who was aware that he would be advertised in every port near his own town” (Jacobs 21).

“A slaveholder once told me that he had seen a runaway friend of mine in New York, and that she besought him to take her back to her master…” (38).

Both instances of hiding in someone else’s house/attic/loft, ashe constantly fears being discovered by those searching for her. (81, 92)

Religion exploited as a Panopticon for Slavery

“Tis the devil who tempts you. God is angry with you, and will surely punish you, if you don’t forsake your wicked ways…” (58).


Historical Context

Nat Turner insurrection (53)

Hysteria: “you’s got de highsterics.” – Response to Linda’s (legitimate) concern for her children. (87)

Jean Fagan Yellin (203-209) Jean Fagan Yellin – “Written by Herself: Harriet Jacobs’ Slave Narrative”

  1. Authority as an autobiography
  2. History of her life
  • Her interactions and responses to other writers through letters to Amy Post etc (205)
    1. Harriet Beecher Stowe (206)
    2. Nathaniel P. Willis (205)
    3. William C. Nell (206)
    4. Maria Child (207)
  1. Incidents as an autobiography with authorship – not only challenges historical institution and ideas, but traditional ideas and institutions involving gender

Gender Studies

“When they told me my new-born babe was a girl; my heart was heavier than it ever had been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women” (64).

Jean Fagan Yellin (203-209)

Incidents as an account of women discussing sexuality and exploitation (209)(Compare Fun Home)

“it also challenges traditional patriarchal institutions and ideas” (209).



Parker’s Reader Response Criticism

Hey guys, so I presented on an overview of Parker’s chapter on reader response crit and the possible ways we could draw parallels with Cave’s ideas. In case you don’t have the handout, it’s posted below:

Basic Definition

Reader response criticism, broken down into simple terms is just what it sounds like.       The focus of the reader’s response to a text.

“We might go as far as to say that there is no separate category of “reader-response      criticism,” because all criticism is reader-response criticism” (330).

When any form of criticism is taking place, it is in essence, a response coming from a     reader. Therefore, can apply to all forms of criticism.

  • Cave: “Cognition […] is alert, attentive, responsive… Correspondingly, literary criticism needs to be as alert and attentive” (1).


Opposition to New Criticism

“Reader-response critics oppose themselves to new criticism” (331).

“William K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley decided that to interpret the meaning of a text based on our affective response to the text was a fallacy, an error in interpretive           logic” (331).

  • Affective Fallacy bottom of page 30

“They may believe that their interpretations reveal the intrinsic meaning of a text, but    they still derive their sense of intrinsic meaning from their own responses” (331).


Ideal, Implied, and Actual Readers

Ideal Reader – Stanley Fish (333)

  • Informed reader – can understand the text – can change throughout the text and over time.


  • Cave: “If you know Latin […] you’re familiar with Latin verse, you know […] what Montaigne’s reinvented line means” (10).


Implied Reader – Wolfgang Iser (334)

  • The readers that fill in gaps that the text may or may not fill in.


  • Cave: “Language as […] porous, full of spaces waiting to be filled” (26).


  • “Respond by forming hypotheses about the text and then testing those hypotheses against the continuing sequence of text” (334).
  • “The meaning of a text, then, comes not from the text alone (as new critics thought) or from the reader alone, but from the two together” (334)

Actual Readers – Norman Holland & David Bleich (334)

  • Holland – Ego psychology – “each reader forms a […] “primary identity” based on early childhood and then projects the concerns of that identity onto a literary text” (334-335)
  • Bleich – “focus on the readers’ subjectivity […] grounding their view of a text in the ways that it connects to their personal experience” (335).
  • “Bleich’s method may tell us a great deal about individual readers, but […] not […] much about the texts they read” (335)
  • “might not even tell us much about readers […] if we follow its logic […] we project our own personal interests […] making them yet another text […] Not a very communal logic” (335).


  • Cave: “investigate (for example) the way in which people read, or perceive dramatic action on the stage” (16).


Structuralist Models of Reading and Communication

Basic model of communication – Roman Jakobson (335)

The Message

Addresser ———————— Message ———————— Addressee


  • Addresser sends the message
  • Addressee receives the message
  • The message requires:
    • Context – What is referred to
    • Contact – “a physical channel and psychological connection”
    • Code – Method of communication/expression – ie language



Language of the Message

Emotive ———————— Poetic ———————— Conative


  • Emotive focuses on Addresser – (think emotes – “expressing an attitude or emotion”)
  • Conative focuses on Addressee – speak directly to addressee
  • Referential – refer – context
  • Phatic – focuses on connection between addresser and addressee
  • Metalingual – language about language – understanding – linguistics
  • Poetic – focuses on the message itself – attends to aesthetics


  • Cave also comments similarly on communication calling it conversation and quoting Michel de Montaigne: “Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener” (2).


Narrator vs Narratee – Gerald Prince (337)

Jakobson’s work allows for examining language between a narrator and narratee.

“[a] narrator […] is in some ways like the author, so the narrate […] is in some ways like the reader” (338)

Encoding and Decoding – Stuart Hall (338)

  • Communication is asymmetrical – imperfect because of “differing discourses, ideologies, technologies” of “encoder” and “decoder.”


  • Cave: “Every time we hear or read an utterance, we […] draw an enormous number of inferences that allow us to project ourselves into the mind of the speaker, to fill out the sketch […] and to make it into something we can understand” (25).


  • Three types of decoders (339)
    • Dominant-hegemonic – “accept ideological assumptions of the encoders.”
    • Negotiated – “accept some of the encoders’ ideological assumptions but oppose others.”
    • Oppositional – “reinterpret […] through […] assumptions that oppose.”

Aesthetic Judgment, Interpretive Communities, and Resisting Readers

Aesthetic Judgment – Barbara Herrnstein Smith (340)

  • “what is good or not varies with the reader or group of readers and even, for any given reader, varies from reading to reading.”

Interpretive Communities – Stanley Fish (341)

  • Have own “strategies and conventions.”
  • There is no originality – trying to be original is not original


  • Cave: “The affordance culture encourages us to think and act as if we were different from those around us, even if the others select their personal styles from the same range of offered potentialities” (50)


Reception Theory and Reception History

Reception Theory – Hans Robert Jauss (344)

  • Expectations “when and where a work was written.”
  • Expectations “for a work’s readers, both when the work was written and as those expectations change over time.”


  • Cave: “In humans, the range of available responses is potentially enormous” (1).


Reception History (345)

  • “Studies the history of how readers responded.”
  • “keep in mind the multiplicity of readers” (346).


Paranoid, Suspicious, and Symptomatic Reading Versus Surface Reading

Paranoid, Suspicious, Symptomatic – Eve Sedgwick, Paul Ricoeur, Stephen Best, Sharon Marcus (346)

  • “contemporary critics as trying to put themselves in a superior position above the works that they interpret.”
  • “digging up and exposing […] repressed meaning” (347).
  • Symptomatic reading
    • “interpretation that treats a text as a series of symptoms that express something deeper and buried” (348).


Surface Reading (348)

  • Study what people do with literature besides reading it
  • Study the language
  • Savor the provoked emotions
  • Take at face value
  • Patterns shared with other works
    • Also use “computer-mediated searches”

Pros of Suspicious Reading – Rita Felski (349)

  • Can lead to both “political insights [and] aesthetic pleasure.”
  • Reveals “layers of meaning.”
  • “turn […] scrutiny on literary works that fascinate.”

Readers and the New Technologies

  • Henry Jenkins – Media study scholar
    • “Consumers participate in the culture they consume, and their participation changes what they consume” (350).
  • David Gauntlett – Web 2.0
    • “audiences and readers […] as partners who share in producing what they receive” (350).

“texts do not make meaning by themselves […] readers […] read with varying degrees of passivity and criticism” (351).


Exam Prep (So Far)

This is what I have so far and really just wanted to get it posted already. It’s far from finished, but at least I’m starting to draw some connections. I feel like some may be a little weak depending on how well I can identify proper secondary sources for it. I feel like TBG and SGGK could be more modular, I think I’m just distracted by the thesis I wrote. I decided to follow Chani’s lead and use the table model. It’s proving to be rather useful and keep things organized, I just need more stuff in the boxes.

Exam Prep Google Doc


Comments (3)

The Buried Giant and Memory Theory

Wow, apologies for the delay in posting this. I could have sworn I did. My brain is just a hot mess lately. So below is the material I went over in my presentation for The Buried Giant. Keep in mind, since I’ve been so heavily involved with memory theory and this book (last semester’s presentation and my thesis), I have more of an inclination to go in that direction when talking about the book, especially considering Ishiguro’s intent on examining memory.

However, that does not mean that you could not engage things like historical context or genre. Ishiguro makes a couple of points in the cited interviews about social conflicts that he drew inspiration from to engage memory. Additionally, there are aspects of the Arthurian Tradition or even The Romance (hint: Professor Sargent has a heavy interest in the romance) that you could use and tie in with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

Arthurian: Knighthood, chivalry, etc
The Romance: The hunt (a lot of mysticism surrounding the hunt, literally for beasts or for maidens etc)

These examples are just additional angles that you could use that I’ve added after the fact of expanding memory theory.

Additionally, I’ve realized post presentation, that I did not tie TBG in with any of our other readings when regarding memory theory. If you guys have any ideas concerning that, feel free to comment, I’ll also take a second look and see what I can link to TBG via memory theory.

TBG and Memory Theory
Influences and motives

  1. Interview published in Contemporary Literature Vol. 30, No. 3. 1989 – Mason & Ishiguro

When talking about his second novel An Artist of the Floating World Ishiguro reveals what interests him for his writing.

“I’m interested in people who, in all sincerity, work very hard and perhaps courageously in their lifetimes toward something, fully believing that they’re contributing to something good, only to find that the social climage has done a topsy-turvy on them by the time they’ve reached the end of their lives. The very things they thought they could be proud of have now become things they have to be ashamed of.” (Mason and Ishiguro 339)

“But things like memory, how one uses memory for one’s own purposes, one’s own ends, those things interest me more deeply. And so, for the time being, I’m going to stick with the first person, and develop the whole business about following somebody’s thoughts around, as they try to trip themselves up or to hide from themselves.” (Mason and Ishiguro 347)

Artist of the Floating World 1986

  1. NPR interview – Scott Simon and Ishiguro


“I’ve had this idea of writing a story about historical memory or societal memory. You know, the question how do societies remember and forget particularly their dark secrets or dark memories?”

“So exactly the same questions that fascinate me about a society that buries memories of past actrocities seem to apply to marriage.”

  1. Guernica interview – Rebecca Rukeyser and Ishiguro


“Most of the poem […] was completely irrelevant to my book. […] What really sparked my imagination as far as The Buried Giant was concerned was that tiny little description of the country he was crossing.”


“[…] if somebody’s an enthusiast about the Arthurian legends […] then probably my book is a big disappointment.”


“I wanted it to be much more than just about societal memory of conflict situations. […] the same questions apply to a relationship. What about all the giants in personal memory that you want to keep buried? […] The role of shared memory is important in keeping the bonds together in a marriage, and in a family. But there is this question of what you do with the uncomfortable memories.”


“Just having Gawain there seemed to place The Buried Giant time-wise: where we were in relation to Arthur’s reign. […] I want to discourage people from going down that path and trying to find literary allusions: it’s just not going to work.”


Different views on Memory in TBG

Axl and Beatrice

“Promise, princess, you’ll not forget what you feel in your heart for me at this moment. […] Promise to keep what you feel for me this moment always in your heart, no matter what you see once the mist’s gone.” – Axl (258)

Gawain and Wistan

“Without this she-dragon’s breath, would peace ever have come? Look how we live now, sir! Old foes as cousins, village by village.” – Gawain (285)

“How can old wounds heal while maggots linger so richly? Or a peace hold for ever built on slaughter and a magician’s trickery? I see how devoutly you wish it, for your old horrors to crumble as dust. Yet they await in the soil as white bones for men to uncover.” – Wistan (286)

Wistan and Edwin

“Promise me you’ll hate the Briton till the day you fall from your wounds or the heaviness of your years.” – Wistan (243)

The Monks

“As men of Christ, it’s beyond them to use a sword or even poison. So they send down her those they wish dead, and in a day or two they’ll have forgotten they ever did so. […] By Sunday he may even have convinced himself he saved you from those soldiers. And the work of whatever prowls this tunnel, should it cross his mind, he’ll disown, or even call God’s will.” – Gawain (165)

Beatrice and Father Jonus

“Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together.” – Beatrice

“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good.” – Father Jonus

“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?” – Beatrice (157)


Collective Memory Theory

Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945)

Started some of the major ideas in his book La Mémoire collective in English: On Collective Memory.

“Memory depends on the social environment.” (37)

Memory in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Perspectives from the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences

“Research has shown that, when we remember something with the future in mind, our retention is boosted – which chimes in with the research into survival narratives and memories discussed in Part III.” – Intro to Part IV (Groes) – legacy – basic survival


“Narration is a tool for changing the future, for triggering and realizing human desire.” – Chapter 24 (Bland) – legacy


“What does it mean for humans and social relationships if Alzheimer’s can wipe out an identity in no time.” – Intro to Part V (Groes) – amnesia


“[…] major cultural shift identified in Part II: we are living in a digital age, in which the impact of human memory loss is set in a context in which everything is remembered by machines. […] a society in which nothing is forgotten, while possibly undermining human memory.” Intro to Part V (Groes) – technology and memory/amnesia


“[…] an opportunity to restate what is important about the ability to forget, and its positive functions, from working through psychological trauma to creating a certain flexibility in terms of future expectation.” – Intro to Part V (Groes) – Benefits of forgetting


“There are two types of forgetting: unintentional forgetting, when we forget information naturally, and intentional forgetting, when we deliberately attempt to eliminate information from memory.” Chapter 29 (Brandt) – selective memory


“Of course, none of these writers are suggesting amnesia is preferable to a normally functioning memory. Instead they respond to […] Buñel’s memory-identity equation: ‘Life without memory is no life at all. […] Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing’. Revising Buñel’s equation, […] if life without memory doesn’t make a person ‘nothing’, what does it do?” – Chapter 33 (Tougaw) – Amnesia and Identity


“We are thus led increasingly to ask who and what it is appropriate to remember, and how it is appropriate to remember them.” – Chapter 35 (Coker and Yeung) – Collective memory vs individual memory (war)



Groes, Sebastian. Memory in the Twenty-First Century. New York. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Halbwachs, Maurice. On Collective Memory. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. New York. Vintage Books, 2015.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. “The Persistence – And Impermanence – Of Memory In ‘The Buried Giant’.” NPR Author

Interviews, By Scott Simon, 2015. Web. Accessed Dec. 2016.

Mason, Gregory and Kazuo Ishiguro. “An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro.” Contemporary Literature, Vol.

  1. 30. [University of Wisconsin Press] Autumn 1989. pp. 335-347.


Next Steps for the Draft

To my dismay, I have a lot of work to do. The following is a list of what I think I need to do next:

– Find the point in my paper that departs into space and a completely different topic
– Remove that half of the paper and any material that relates to it in the rest of the paper and does not relate to collective memory and legacy affecting identity.
– Look up the history of collective memory theory
– Find additional sources within that history
– Insert ideas and discussions from those sources
– Insert introduction for sources to orient reader
– Develop argument for impact of legacy on identity

Comments (1)

Feedback and Revising (Or Working I Should Say)

The feedback I received was pretty uniform across the board considering I didn’t have much to show due to changing my thesis slightly. However, after taking the advice to change up the thesis and following through with the advice to explore additional sources, I’ve finally broken through the block that had me stuck in the beginning. I had some very good suggestions as sources that gave a lot of content for my paper as well. To give myself some more structure to work with (this is the first time I’m writing a paper in this manner), I split the paper up into subsections with titles to separate the paper into parts that I could rearrange to help with the flow of ideas. From there I took the quotes from the suggested sources as well as the other sources and arranged them within the subsections to follow said flow of ideas. This made it immensely easier to dive in and begin writing the paper, as the subsections and arranged quotes gave me a path to follow.

The biggest part was identifying the additional sources that ended up being invaluable. The more I had to relate to one another, the more I was able build a foundations for the argument I wanted to present. Ironically, it still leads to what I initially intended on writing, but the more refined focus keeps it from becoming too big and broad of a topic to write about. So now, instead of focusing on the science fiction, it gets a mention at the end. Most of the paper will deal with collective memory, collective legacy and their impact on identity. Needless to say, the sources have changed rather drastically, but I think I can manage to keep a few from the previous idea as well since it will be moving in that direction anyway.

Comments (93)

Annotated Bibliography (and hopefully some clarity)

Science fiction tells us that the center of the human identity is survival. Much of science fiction depicts an escape from dangers to human survival. Does science fiction then suggest that to be human, we must survive and to survive, we must escape?

Weir, Andy. The Martian. New York: Random House LLC, 2014.

This text can be used to support the idea of the correlation between human identity and survival. The main character Mark Watney’s determination fighting all odds to survive long enough to overcome accidently being abandoned on Mars by his crew. The book is able to do this in several ways. The plot itself, a story of survival against seemingly impossible odds in space makes an easy reference to survival. Watney at one point in the novel compares himself to another species (bacteria) trying to survive on the planet. He comes to terms with his own death several times and during those times shows a desire for the memory of him to outlast his death, giving another angle on the human identity of survival. Worldwide support for his return also shows the connection between humans when faced with extinction. Finally, Mars itself in the novel can be compared to Earth. A dying planet, with failing food supply and Watney a symbol for the human species, driven by the desire to escape his fate on his metaphorical Earth, taking salvation by launching himself into space.

The Martian. Dir. Ridley Scott. 20th Century Fox, 2015. Film.

The film adaptation will be used briefly to discuss a certain quote within the novel that is added upon in the script for the movie. In the book, Watney addresses his colleague Martinez:

“If I die, I need you to check on my parents. They’ll want to hear about our time on Mars firsthand. I’ll need you to do that. It won’t be easy talking to a couple about their dead son. It’s a lot to ask; that’s why I’m asking you… I’m not giving up. Just planning for every outcome. It’s what I do.”

Right away, Watney addresses his own death and the will to have his memory outlast him, by thinking beyond his own extinction. This survival through his own memorial can only be achieved because there are other humans to remember. The movie expands upon the existential aspects of this moment by modifying the quote and having him address their commander instead:

“If I die I need you to check in with my parents. They’ll want to hear all about our time on Mars. I know that sucks and it will be hard talking to a couple about their dead son. It’s a lot to ask, which is why I’m asking you. I’m not giving up. I just need to prepare for every outcome. Please tell them, I love what I do and I’m really good at it and that I’m dying for something big and beautiful and greater than me…”

Clarke, Arthur C. “Rescue Party.”

“Rescue Party” allows for an examination of the idea that science fiction suggests that to be human, we must survive and to survive we must escape. It depicts the destruction of our world by way of an exploding sun. The only choice for the species to preserve their identity and their existence is to escape, which is discovered by this alien rescue party. The manner of the human race’s escape is out of sheer desperation, “[daring] to use rockets to bridge interstellar space! The whole race… embarked on this journey in the hope that its descendants would complete it, generations later.” This can also address ideas of legacy and how it relates to the importance of survival. Additionally, the Biblical references can also be used to talk about how religion describes the apocalyptic events and its relation to survival.

Damasio, Antonio. The Feeling of What Happens. Mariner Books, 2000.

In chapter one, a subsection titled “Why We Need Consciousness,” addresses idea of survival and the connection between consciousness and life. He explains how images guide our course of action to preserve life. These images reside within our consciousness and allow foresight. I will use these ideas to discuss human identity within our own conscious and how science fiction, or the image, provides guidance necessary for the foresight influencing survival.

Damasio, Antonio. Self Comes to Mind. Vintage Books, 2012.

I noticed an interesting idea where Damasio says early on, “in the absence of consciousness, the personal view is suspended; we do not know of our existence; and we do not know that anything else exists.”(5) This could be used to relate to his other ideas on why we need this consciousness. Why we must have these images (science fiction in the case I’m arguing) and why knowing our own existence is important, thus influencing our survival and assuming the human identity.


The party is rather dead at the moment, which could suggest the idea of human identity equals survival and interstellar escape is not as discussed as I would have assumed, but I am up in the right hand corner wondering if more people need to be in this ballroom. I think the latter is more likely. The center of the room consists of my primary texts and a motion picture adaptation of one of the primaries. These primaries all suggest through science fiction, that the purpose of the human species is to survive, thus making it central to our identity. The only way to do so is to escape. Damasio recognizes the images brought forth by their consciousness and discusses the reason for the existence of their foresight is due to their conscious minds. It is then their conscious minds that produce this identity of human survival. I’m basically agreeing with everyone, so a little combination of kissing ass and piggy backing. The only issue with science fiction is the lack of people taking its themes seriously. Therefore, I’m motivated to show that this seemingly tangential or insignificant matter is actually important or interesting.


Comments (3)

Research Proposal

As a forewarning, I have seemed to take the approach of working backwards by identifying a topic I would like to write about and trying to find texts and sources to support that topic. At first I did not know where to start, but have since identified possible sources. Unfortunately, it seems that science fiction would play a big role in my topic and I do not have an extensive history as a science fiction fan. Therefore, if you have any suggestions concerning my sources I would be more than open to them. Additionally, the sources may appear to be all over the place, but I do have a train of thought for them. If there is confusion please do point out where things get lost as I think the issue with this thesis is making sure the argument follows a cohesive and coherent path.

There are quite a few primary texts involved and pieced together to develop the idea I’m trying to address. Arthur C Clarke The Songs of Distant Earth and his short story “Rescue Party” consist of humans as a species attempting to outlive the destruction of planet Earth. The novel involves a different planet where humans already exist and use methods of transporting the species to preserve it. “Rescue Party” follows aliens’ examination of Earth after humans had already abandoned it by way of a fleet of spaceships. Lord Byron’s poem “Darkness” and Frank Lillie Pollock’s short story “Finis” are two different instances of the Earth coming under apocalyptic end due to the sun either burning out as in “Darkness” or a star’s heat consuming Earth as in “Finis.” More modern examples of story telling with these similar ideas of destruction and preservation arise in sci-fi motion picture Interstellar and television series “Battlestar Galactica.” (These may not be used). Finally, Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant recently revealed how essential it would be to a strong point in my argument as it pertains to the purpose of the human identity.

Secondary sources is where I am severely lacking at the moment. So far historical context for Darkness would come into play and The Bible would be heavily related with the apocalyptic elements. Additionally, I may dare to engage Professor Tougaw’s work on memory and as it relates to The Buried Giant. After really examining this for my oral presentation it proved to be valuable for my thesis as well. Sources from Damasio will be examined as well as it pertains to the human identity.

The ideas I wish to address with his hodgepodge of texts is the question of whether these reveal the answers to the purpose of human identity/existence. Ishiguro will provide ideas on memory and how that relates to legacy. Byron and Pollock will provide the idea of apocalypse and the impending dangers to the human identity/existence and that legacy. Arthur C Clarke (possibly along with the film and show) will provide the solution thus stressing the importance of the ideas of science fiction and how they portray the most important aspect of human identity.


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Gawain and the Hunt

Like others that may have already mentioned, I too have had multiple courtships with SGGK. During this read, I could not shake the idea of the hunt, which may have come from previous analyzing. The hunt was just as outlined with customs and courtesies as other aspects of the court, which like any of these other aspects were usually reserved for the wealthy. J.D. Burnley’s “Hunting Scenes in ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'” does a good job of bringing to light several versions of the hunt at play in SGGK. We see literal hunts concerning deer, fox, boar etc. Even a literal hunt of the Green Knight, undertaken by Sir Gawain. Then there are more subtle hunts that Burnley touches on.

There’s a lot of interesting things at work concerning the parallels between the episodes of Bertilak leaving to hunt while Gawain stays behind and Lady Bertilak’s “hunt for Gawain’s moral flaws.” Burnley mentions the discourse concerning the relation of the hunt for a fox with Lady Bertilak’s hunt dealing with Gawain’s cleverness. Gawain can therefore, be compared to the fox, which at this point is interesting because there are so many hunts occurring at the same time in so many different directions, some of it subtle, but nonetheless contributes to the pace of the tale. Gawain hunting for the Green Knight who turns out to be Bertilak, Bertilak hunting literally and also for Gawain’s moral fiber by testing him multiple ways, Lady Bertilak’s testing through seduction and the girdle.

With so many instances of the hunt going on and how these tales have lasted the time they have, can say something about the idea of the hunt. Why is a hunt such an engaging topic? And not even in the literal sense. In Arthurian literature, the hunt can even apply to the hunt for love, the chase, (something that is still very present today). Is there a subconscious instinct? A primal hard wiring of the brain? If so, should the hunt for modern objects, ideas, desires have a set of customs and courtesies as they did during the times of chivalry, the court, and courtly customs and courtesies? Would it help or hinder?


Perception as Reality

Savarese and Zunshine come across the topic of “mind reading” which they describe as “the evolved cognitive adaptation that prompts us to explain observable behavior as caused by unobservable mental states, such as thoughts, feelings, and intentions” (Savarese & Zunshine 21). This describes the attempt made by those who would be classified as neurotypical to explain those who do not exhibit neurotypical behavior by ways of classification, which in turn can dehumanize those who do not exhibit this behavior. These “cognitive biases are inseparable from mind reading” (21). The reason for this inseparability is the mere fact that in order to “mind read” you must compare one mind to another. When you do so, certain relationships occur such as superiority vs inferiority, typical vs atypical, sane vs insane etc.

What happens when you remove the comparison though? What happens when you look inward? After all, thoughts, feelings, intentions, behavior all comes from perception. When we remove the comparison and examine the perception of the individual by themselves, we come to a pretty complicated question. What is real? Is perception reality? If we eliminate the comparison between more than one mind, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. Perception to the individual is reality to the individual.

Whether intentional or not, Alberto Rios seems to touch on this idea in “The Back of My Head in a Crowd” toward the end. He writes about his perceptions, particularly of his husband. These were the same perceptions he experienced while his husband was alive and identified or perceived them as his husband. Although neurotypical behavior or reasoning would determine these experiences to be sensations separate of their deceased loved one, Rios identifies them as one and the same. Because he “can smell him. It’s him.” This perception is Rios’ reality.

The biggest question that then comes from this is: just because something is not neurotypical, is it any less real to the individual who experiences it? If it is real to the individual, is it real to others as well? Or must perception be shared for it to be real? I think these ideas really complicate the topic of “mind reading.”


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