Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cracking THE BOOK in 1984


"Part Two" of George Orwell's 1984 is thematically significant for its explication of The Party philosophy that undergirds Ingsoc, newspeak for the so-called movement of English socialism. Really, Ingsoc and The Party are part of what Emmanuel Goldstein more accurately names "Oligarchical Collectivism" in the title of his work that Winston reads in chapter IX (nine) of 1984. In his "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectism," Goldstein explains the historical roots, logic and contradictions of The Party slogan advertised at the beginning of 1984. Winston, however, focuses primarily on that part of the Ministry of Truth's banner which reads: "Ignorance is Strength," and "War is Peace."

That said, I would like you to delve into Goldstein's essay, giving an in-depth, textually supported summary and interpretation of, first, what he means by "oligarchical collectivism" and secondly, what the phrases, "ignorance is strength" and "war is peace" essentially mean. You decide the length of this piece, which will likely exceed the structured, five-paragraph format.

Please follow MLA guideliness for quoting, summarizing and paraphrasing that are explained in the packet I gave you a few weeks ago.

This is a 25 point assignment that will start the fourth quarter.

It is due by hard copy on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.

Big Brother

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pop-Culture and 1984


In discussing George Orwell's 1984 it is difficult not to find a number of references--whether explicit or implicit--to the novel's themes: industrialism, militarism, capitalism and totalitarianism, social control, imperialism, and the subjugation of the individual to the whims of the institution, namely, a government hijacked by a minority group with a vested interest in securing itself as a world superpower that, in its Machiavellian lust for empire, is devoid of a moral obligation to uphold human rights or the common good.

In every age and in every culture, such themes are relevant as history is marked by the rise and fall of various world powers who came into a position of such authority as a result of conquest, invasion, and colonization. Orwell's 1984 is a profound allegory in this sense, likening the fictional world of Oceania to imperial London. It is a time where industry and institution govern the personal lives of individuals to the point where they no longer have a sense of self-identity, nor a sense of history, for that matter. Any search for history or self-identity is immediately quashed by a police system of discipline and punish (eg., Though Police). And so the powers that be--i.e. Big Brother and his Party--because they operate on a system of fear and paranoia, keep the masses in check and submissive to their regime.

The videos listed below are just a few examples of Orwellian philosophy as portrayed in pop culture, namely, rock and hip-hop. Both musical forms provide a platform for the democratic ideal of protest against perceived injustices that favor the institution over the individual's human rights. Each of the videos below pertain both lyrically and imagistically to the themes presented in 1984.

For this assignment, I would like you to choose one video for individual analysis of themes presented in lyrics and image. I would then like you to compare the themes in the video to those presented in 1984, using textual support to back up your claims, including quotes from song lyrics as they pertain to the text of 1984.

This assignment is to follow MLA guidelines for formatting quotations. It is to be completed on the blog by Tuesday, March 26, 2009.

Big Brother Peach, FSC

Incubus' "Megalomaniac":

Rage Against the Machine's "Testify":

El-P's "Stepfather Factory":

Talkdemonic's "Duality of Deathening":

Aesop Rock's "None Shall Pass":

Mike Finnegan's "i1100":

Radiohead's "All I Need"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploring Themes in 1984: Chapters I-V


As discussed in class, the opening chapters of Part One of George Orwell's 1984 are rife with themes as well as literary techniques that magnify the various subject matters of the text: political suppression, censorship, militarism, media spin-control, the manipulation of historical fact, thought control, despair, treason, and totalitarianism among other things. Undoubtedly, 1984 is a work of social critique in which Orwell, through the character of Winston Smith, prophesies the onset of a dystopia--one characterized by unbridled industrialization, dehumanizing thought control, and totalitarianism. The scary thing in all of this is that 1984 allegorizes modern society, mirroring its effect on the human person. Given the technological advancements of science and industry in our own world, and the increased globalization of free market capitalism, humans are easily subjugated to slavery for the purposes of increasing productivity and profit for ruling systems such as government, big business, and even religious institutions.

Moreover, in order to keep the machine of industry and profit running, humans are often censored from advocating for their individual rights, including the right to a fair salary and unionization. This is particularly true in underdeveloped countries where workers are locked in an economic system ruled by developed, "first world" countries, that exploit people for profit. They do this without considering the injustices of unfair trading practices that leave local businesses little on which to thrive. There is a level of political suppression involved in all of this when workers are censored from speaking out against those shady business practices which keep them in the dire straights of low wages, poverty, and hunger.

Anyhow, I want you all to keep in mind the various themes we've brought up in class as they appear in character dialogue, in setting, and in the observations Smith makes of his dismal surroundings.

In a response of decent length (you decide what is most appropriate), I would like you to develop a discussion on a theme presented in chapters one through five of Part One. This will involve using plot details to back up your claims. You will also need to indicate what plot, or literary, devicesOrwell uses to demonstrate the specific theme.

For instance, if you are discussing the theme of dehumanization, you will want to pinpoint specific instances where "inversion" takes place. Recall that inversion is the opposite of personification. It is the application of inanimate attributes to human characters to suggest themes such as the dehumanization of the individual.

Some literary devices to pay attention to:

–Narration/point of view
–Symbol/imagery (indicating mood, atmosphere, tension)
–Metaphor (including objective correlative, personification, inversion, and other examples of figurative language)

This assignment is due, Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by class-time on the blog. Be sure to indicate your name, my name, course, and date due as well as a creative title pertinent to the theme you are discussing. Be sure to indicate the author's name and the title of the work being discussed in opening.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bro. Peach Does His Homework

Bro. Rob Peach, FSC
ENG 141.07
March 11, 2009

After "Darwin and After": A Response to Student Inquiries on Bratlinger

· What is the thesis statement of Patrick Bratlinger’s chapter, “Darwin and After” from Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930?

Bratlinger states his thesis from the outset of the chapter: “Although the ‘Darwinian revolution’ produced new ideas about human races, societies, and cultures, it did not much alter and in several ways strengthened extinction discourse” (164). That is to say that while Darwin’s theories on evolution widened the world’s perspective on the physiological development of the human species, stemming as his theories suggest, from the lowest forms of reptilian life, to the highest form of mammalian life, they narrow-mindedly envisioned the termination of “lower races” within the one human species that progressed to the top of the animal kingdom’s hierarchy. This happens, according to Darwinian-minded evolutionists—or social Darwinists—as societies that are of a more scientifically and culturally progressed nature essentially oust those societies whose advancements in science and culture are less wholly developed and thus unable to compete with the standards of advancement or keep the laws of progress of the “civilized” world. Thus, as Bratlinger states: From the 1830s on, Darwin believed that, though humanity formed a single species, certain primitive races were so far behind civilization—so lost in the immense past of social evolution—that their extinction was likely if not inevitable. With few exceptions—Lewis Henry Morgan and Alfred Russel Wallace are perhaps the main ones—most evolutionists treat primitive races and cultures negatively, not only as doomed by the inexorable laws of nature but also as meriting their pending extinctions. (165)
In this way, Bratlinger concludes his chapter with a critique of social Darwinism, saying that the proponents of Darwin’s evolutionary theory—Malthus et. al—validate “extinction discourse” by way of “naturalizing” or “biologizing”—that is, applying natural or biological explanations for—such unnatural or artificial means of selection and competition within or between species as war, imperialism, and the “supposed progress of white civilization [i.e. racism]” (188). Therefore, social Darwinism and the evolutionary theory of such men as Malthus and Huxley serves as an inadequate rationalization of injustices that force races considered primitive or savage into extinction.

· Explain the chronological and cultural distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence.

According to Darwin’s evolutionary theory as delineated by Bratlinger in his chapter, “Darwin and After” from Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Exntinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930, the chronological distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence pertains to the time gap between what is known as prehistory (or history before there were written records of it)—characterized by savagery—and history (referring to what is accounted for in written record)—populated by civilized races. Savages, for Darwin, are the “parents” or progenitors of a more civilized race of the human species that supposedly caused the extermination of the savage parent-species in its natural progression towards a higher state of physiological development. In this theory of chronological distance involving “geological ‘deep time’ ” as it is called, “Both new species and the advanced human races supplanted—or extinguished—older, supposedly less fit or less adaptable ones” (Bratlinger 168). In this way, the “children consume the parents” over time (Bratlinger 168).
As for cultural distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence; it is measured by the social Darwinists according to scientific and social progress of individuals within the human species. It entails social cooperation and the strengthening of such cooperation over time (Bratlinger 168) for the sake of survival. This perceived cultural distance between the savage and the civilized, as gauged by scientific progress, ultimately legitimated a theory of extinction that, though professedly concerned with “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest,” implied the actual extermination of supposedly primitive races by means of industrialization, war, capitalism, and racism. Bratlinger admits that Darwin leans in his written discourse on natural selection and survival of the fittest towards a theory of violent extinction, often applying the “active, violent rhetoric of the discourse about racial extinction to processes that are long-term and nonviolent [such as a famine, disease, or natural disaster]” (169). Thus, Darwin fails to delineate clearly the discrepancies in his theory as Bratlinger suggests: “Darwin here leaves unclear whether he means that the unimproved species will be directly, violently ‘exterminated’ by ‘its competitors,’ or whether instead it will gradually disappear through diminishing access to the means of subsistence that the improved species gradually monopolize [such as industry, trade, scientific invention, etc.]” (170).

· Explain what is meant by Huxley’s conclusion that, as Bratlinger notes of his evolutionary theory, history is a spectacle of races in collision?

Huxley’s conception of history as such a spectacle assumes an imperial outlook on the dynamics of history as a time-bound interaction between races defined primarily by war and colonization, rather than by cultural diffusion or economic exchange as Bratlinger notes (173). Most historians, or those studying history, will admit that man develops not only physiologically, or morphologically (in terms of bodily structure), but culturally as well. Huxley disregards the anthropological perspective of history that takes into consideration man’s advancement not just through competition with other men through violence, but man’s development in terms of art, religion, music, government, and law. Huxley’s ethnology—that is, the study of ethnicity in light of history—is delimited by his narrow-minded perception of historical progress as one war after another between the more “vigorous and fertile race” and its weaker counterpart. Ultimately, as Bratlinger states, “For Huxley, there is apparently not much more to be understood about human history or prehistory unless it sheds light on the evolutionary changes that the physical structures of the different races have undergone” (173). Thus, with morphology as his primary lens through which to view history, Huxley sees violent collision as the only way to measure a race’s superiority over another. Such an outlook validates imperialism, unbridled capitalism, and oppressive colonialism as seemingly ethical forms of competition between races and their respective societies. Bratlinger says it best in reference to Huxley’s perspective: “In the external struggle between societies, civilization is virtually identical to imperialism, because both entail the conquest and domestication of savages” (176). In this way, the civilized man is no less a savage than the primitive man, using violent means to attain a supposed Utopia of social cooperation. Bratinlger's explanation of Tylor's anthropology fits here: “But it is not just that groups of savages resemble one another; civilized peoples also resemble savages, as ‘higher’ stages of culture continue to reflect ‘lower’ ones” in terms of superstition, fear, and violence (180).

· What is the difference between Tylor’s theory of a nascent relativism and his ethnocentrism?

According to Bratlinger, Edward Burnett Tylor’s evolutionary theory argues that all races of the single human species “were progressing through identical stages of cultural development, from savagery through barbarism to civilization” that differed in degree rather than in origin (178). In other words, all species develop relative to their specific condition in time and place. This is part of Tylor’s theory of “nascent relativism”: all races are progressing through different stages of development according to their given situation in continent, tribe, and cultural tradition. At the same time, Tylor held an ethnocentric view of development that recognized the existence of “superior” and “lower” races within this dynamic of overall development. Tylor was thus able to cleverly claim “the ‘educated’ elites of Europe and North America as the ‘standard’ whereby to judge all ‘lower’ cultures” (Stocking 162, qutd. in Bratlinger 179). In this way, all of humankind develops, but at different rates, which allows for those who have surpassed the “slower” to essentially supersede other cultures according to its own code of progress—one that is ultimately Eurocentric.