Archive forNovember, 2016

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.”


Curiosity vs Presumption

Several of my classmates have noted something very important to take into consideration when discussing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Mark Haddon says himself “curious incident is not a book about Asperger’s… labels say nothing about a person. they say only how the rest of us categorise that person.” Kelly said something very similar in her own post, which was a great way to end and tie up her post and point in general, “This is a story about Christopher Boone, not a story about Asperger’s.” I think in a case like this, it is easy for someone to be lost in those labels that we so quickly jump to categorize people in. Our traditional ways of thinking and the ways consciousness is ‘suppose’ to work play a significant role in how we respond to Christopher as a narrator.

This is seen heavily with Greg Olear right away with his title accusing Haddon of “Perpetuat[ing] Negative Stereotypes.” At first, you could almost agree with Olear for exploiting Autism and Asperger’s, but then you realize, wait, Haddon never specified what Christopher had exactly. It was never flat out revealed in plain language, in plain label. As you get further through Olear’s review, it’s revealed. Okay, your son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. This is where Olear becomes part of the very problem he is trying to combat. His own experience with Asperger’s and Autism interferes with his ability to read a story about Chris. This no longer is a story about Chris, it is a story about Asperger’s. Chris would not be a portrayal of Asperger’s if people would read about Chris without imposing their own interpretations or labels on him. Olear wants an accurate portrayal of Asperger’s, well if curious incident isn’t an accurate portrayal of Asperger’s, the simple answer would be: it’s not Asperger’s. If Chris entered a hospital for a diagnosis, would he be diagnosed as having Asperger’s? The answer shouldn’t matter, especially since there is an individual within every person who is categorized as having Asperger’s. Unfortunately, Olear’s presumptuous nature and readiness to apply labels as he sees fit, heavily influenced by his own experience and without regard to other interpretation, will be overwhelmingly matched by the masses.

On the other hand, if we are to give way to curiosity without allowing presumption, we would be able to view this story as a story of a character, without imposing labels. Michiko Kakutani seems to be able to see Christopher for who he is a little better. She is aware of the possible labels that could apply to Chris saying, “(the form of autism he presumably suffers from).” Presumably. Not only has everyone been presuming that Chris has Asperger’s, they have allowed that relationship to define one another. Asperger’s defines Chris’ character and in turn Chris is a representation of Asperger’s. This is not the case at all, which it seems Kakutani tries to point out by describing Chris with specific habits, preferences and traits.

Ironically enough, the very type of negative stereotyping that Olear wants to battle, seems to be something he is perpetuating himself by imposing labels, while someone whom he would disagree with, such as Kakutani, who doesn’t seem convinced that this book is merely a story of Asperger’s, but of Christopher as an individual, is achieving what he is so determined to promote. The point to take away from all of this criticism and debate, is that these disorders, these labels, cannot be applied so easily, just as any individual cannot be a representation of any of these labels. This same approach should be applied to any label and allow us to challenge conventional ways of thought when it comes to thinking about consciousness and identity.

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Mukhopadhyay with the Pig and the Frog

Throughout Mukhopadhyay’s writing, there are instances where it seems that he utilizes what Gaipa would call piggybacking and leapfrogging. At times, it seems that Mukhopadhyay is merely expanding upon what others have said about his condition, affirming the name of autism. However, at points, he seems to leapfrog it, by presenting aspects that were questioned in his own point of view. As the reader progresses through the book, these strategies in Mukhopadhyay’s writing seem to have an interesting affect on the reader, where the reader begins to question thoughts on autism in general. Thus, the reading, without doing so directly, has the same effect of critical writing that would “take on the establishment.” Whether the use of these strategies were intentional or not can be up to interpretation.

The moment of the staircase that Mukhopadhyay recalls takes something that “normal” people have created and turns the perspective inside out by showing his own thought process. Tito wanted to take the stairs because the purpose of their existence was to be walked up and down upon. Depicting this train of thought in his writing causes the reader to challenge their own perception on the purpose of things and allows them to become aware of different perspectives, in this case, the perspective of someone with autism. By doing so, it challenges most traditional thoughts on autism in general.


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