Sometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horSometimes called 'the most important piece of literary criticism in the Horror genre', Lovecraft's essay on the history and method of supernatural horror is a great resource for readers and writers alike, as it mostly consists of a list of his favorite authors and their most notable and unusual stories. Really, an editor should go through the text, collect all the stories and authors Lovecraft mentions, and then make them into a shot story collection, with this essay as an introduction--hard to think of a more effective primer to the genre than that.
Unfortunately, I wish that Lovecraft had gone into greater depth about the style and methods of horror writers, particularly when he was going through all the example authors. If he had taken certain stories and passages and used them as illustrations for how to achieve this or that effect, then this would be an indispensable analysis. As it is, you get a lot of plot outlines along with generalized bits of praise or condemnation from Lovecraft, himself.
He includes many of those longer Gothic works, talking about certain moments which manage to rise above the formulaic melodrama and tacked-on romance that tend to dominate such lengthy, ambling tales, but it's hard to feel that it's worthwhile to wade through all that just to get to the few superlative instances. His discussion of Hawthorne's longer works, in particular, made them sound much more appealing than my actual experience with them, years ago. Then again, Lovecraft, himself is known to indulge in verbose exposition, so he may find that style less off-putting than I do.
Likewise, Lovecraft's chapter on Poe is much more laudatory than what I would write, as I find most of his work to be uneven and repetitive to the point of narrowness in terms of images, ideas, themes, and tone. Lovecraft, himself, does acknowledge some of these problems, but as with the rest of the essay, it could have done with more specific examples and laying out of ideas. It looks like I'll have to return to the stories, themselves for instruction, and hope that proves to be enough.
Amusing that Lovecraft outright rejects the 'Gothic Explique'--when an author tacks on a bit at the end that tells the reader how all the apparently supernatural events actually have a reasonable explanation such as mass hypnotism, a dog covered in phosphorescent mushroom spores, or a full-sized human skeleton rigged up as a marionette--also known as the 'Scooby Doo Ending'. Then again, I'm not fond of it, myself, especially in a profoundly supernatural tale where the explanation must become absurd in order to account for everything that has happened.
But so far, I'm happy to report that my book seems to lie within the guidelines set down by Lovecraft, so that, at least, is a promising sign....more
There's a curious double-standard between what we expect from White guy authors compared to authors of any other background. When an author is a NativThere's a curious double-standard between what we expect from White guy authors compared to authors of any other background. When an author is a Native American, for example, we tend to expect their books to deliver to us the 'Native American experience'. If the author is a woman, we tend to expect that her book will show us the 'female perspective'--to the degree that female authors who write stories about men often take on a masculine or nondescript name, like J.K. Rowling.
So we get Western-educated authors like Achebe, Hosseini, and Momaday who write thoroughly traditional novels in the Western style and then place a thin veneer of their own ethnic background onto those stories, and are praised for it in academia, because their work meets expectation: delivering to The West a simplified and supposedly 'pre-colonized' version of foreignness.
As a White male author, on the other hand, the expectation is that you won't stick to your own cultural identity, but will instead attempt to explore the breadth and depth of human experience through characters of many backgrounds--and why not? White guys have been doing it for years, and many of them were quite good at it.
In fact, the problem here is not that White guys are encouraged to take on other roles, its that non-White folks are discouraged from doing so. As Said points out: it is not only Black people who are capable of writing about Black people, or only Arabs about Arabs, or only Whites about Whites; we all need to explore similarities and differences in our fellow humans.
So here I am: White guy, trying to explore humanity, writing a bit of fiction about Colonialism, about the English rule in Egypt and India, featuring characters of different backgrounds--but it's daunting. I don't want to do it thoughtlessly, and though I take a great deal of inspiration from Haggard, Kipling, Conrad, and Burton, I don't want to incidentally adopt their shortcomings along with the interesting bits.
So I thought I might combat their prejudices by taking in the most notable and talked-about book on interactions and stereotypes between The West and The East. However, Orientalism was not what I expected; but then again, it wasn't what Said expected, either. He didn't intend to write The Book on East/West interaction, his work is much narrower in scope.
The whole of the book is Said looking closely at a dozen authors, mostly French and English, some academics, some fiction writers, and gives examples of a number of quotes for each where they talk about 'The East' in ways that demonstrate a certain bias. That's pretty much the book, all four-hundred pages of it. Why spend that long on such a specific topic? Because this book was meant for a small academic publication, and that's what specialized academics do.
Now, if you've read any of the other reviews of this book on GR, you'd get the impression that Said is an enraged polemicist who spends the whole book denigrating 'The West' and praising 'The East'. It’s inexplicable to me that any person with the most basic reading comprehension could come away from Said with this view. Indeed, once I realized the scope of this work (and that it wasn't likely to help with my specific writing concern), I almost abandoned it, but I wanted to get to the 'angry Said' part where he defames Western civilization, just to see how bad it got.
It never came. Said's tone throughout the book is exceedingly dry and cautious--too much so, for my taste, I've been known to enjoy a good diatribe--so any prejudicial anger a reader might find in this book is only what they brought in with them. The notion that Said is anti-Western or Pro-Islam is such a bizarrely inexplicably misreading that the only reason a reader could come away from the book with that belief is if they brought in a huge set of prejudices and then ignored everything Said actually wrote.
First, they must assume that ‘East’ and ‘West’ are terms that have well-defined geographical and social meanings, and then ignore the fact that Said repeatedly states that, to him, 'East' and 'West' are just convenient ideas, not real, solid entities--that it is ridiculous to talk about India, China, and the Middle East as if they were one culture, or even to lump in the various Arab states with one another, when they each have very different histories and values. There is no more unity between all Islamic nations than there is between all Christian nations.
Trying to place a line between Greece and Turkey and claiming these are separate cultures is artificial. Lest we forget: Troy was in Turkey, when the Roman Empire died in Italy it continued in Istanbul (as Edith Hamilton points out: Roman rule was always more Persian than Greek), Southern Europe was long ruled by Moors, and as Ockley’s 1798 History of the Saracens contentiously point out, nearly everything Europe knows of Greek philosophy and mathematics came from Islam.
Then, the ignorant reader would have to assume that when Said points out a specific trend in some authors of the ‘West’, that this constitutes an attack on ‘The West’ as an entity (which Said denies exists). This despite the fact that Said explicitly holds many of these Western authors in high regard and specifically states that there’s nothing wrong with cultures having interdependent relationships:
“The Arab world today is an intellectual, political, and cultural satellite of the United States. This is not in and of itself something to be lamented; the specific form of the satellite relationship, however, is.”
The reader would then have to assume that this perceived attack on a fictional ‘Western Culture’ was the same thing as an uplifting of ‘the East’, even though Said often speaks about how many Eastern states are damaged and without a modern intellectual tradition to train its members to do the work of improving them, and that all the great centers of study and economic control for Islam are located in England or America.
But then, the fact that there are prejudiced readers is hardly surprising: the world is full of people trying to divide everything up between 'us' and 'them'. I get comments from people who don't realize that Islam is an Abrahamic religion--sharing the same holy books, prophets, and god as Christianity and Judaism--people who aren't aware that a 'fatwa' just means any public statement by a scholar. You read about American military consultants in the Middle East who don't know the difference between Shia and Sunni. Very few these days would connect this quote:
"The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr"
How easily we forget that Athens is closer to Marrakesh, Tunis, Cairo, and Baghdad than it is to Paris, Berlin, or London.
I remember seeing a supposedly humorous map where the Middle East was replaced by an impact crater, with the words 'Problem Solved' beneath it, completely ignoring the fact that the reason there is constant conflict there is because powerful First World countries have gone in, supplied both sides with cheap guns, made Opium the only profitable crop for farmers to grow, and set up regimes whose only purpose is to funnel money and natural resources out of those countries and into multinational banks--any area is going to be politically unstable under those conditions.
Indeed, Said openly admits that there is much wrong in the Arab world, that it is full of turmoil and violence and lack of education, and that it is all too easy to paint it as a ‘fallen culture’ when compared to the heights of sophistication and science it once enjoyed, which sparked off the Renaissance in Europe. Of course, to typify them that way is to ignore the fact that we do the same thing within our own cultures, that the cliches of American rednecks and hippy-dippy liberals are the same as the cliche arab: ignorant, sectarian, ever-feuding, following charismatic leaders into reactionary movements. We can point to Religious Fundamentalists, Tea Party Yokels, Ron Paul Libertarians, Militant Feminists, and Black Muslim Brotherhood members and find the same clannish human system at play.
I was constantly struck by the fact that the separation Said depicts between the ideas of East and West were the same generic type of power separation laid out by Marx: a dominating power structure versus the population whom they control and profit from. Both make the same generalizations: that the population is childlike and irrational, easily manipulated, and in need of governance. Very little of Said’s analysis was specific to the conflict between the East and West, which may have been deliberate on his part, but I think it would have made his neutral stance clearer if he had expressed this outright. I think that extending the narrow facet of his argument and showing us that this is how power works everywhere, at all times, would have made his work stronger, overall.
As I read, it seemed that what Said was saying was clearly true, but not in a revelatory way. I found myself comparing it to Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman, my high-water mark for social criticism, where her statements are inescapably true, but in a way you never realized until you saw it written out. I kept waiting for Said to take it to the next level, to elevate these basic, naked conclusions to some profound and insightful conclusion.
Of course European, Christian powers would mythologize and simplify Islam, of course they would make a phantom enemy of it, while at the same time trading, allying, and sharing sources of inspiration with it--that is no more than differing cultures always do, as Said points out. What great insight into this system is meant to shock me? Am I simply too much the postmodern, atheistic American to see what he says as anything but basic and inescapable?
I came to this book looking to find something insidious, some system by which these cultures interact uniquely, but all I got was ‘most people are ignorant, dominating forces produce propaganda, Europe vs. Islam edition’. Of course we are all Quixote and Pangloss, making ourselves heroes of a fantastical narrative and creating enemies to blame because we are too weak to do anything other than maintain that fiction. But, even if we are all human, and Said is a Humanist, and all power structures operate in the same ways, there should still be some specifics which set this incidence apart.
I was waiting for Said to do some serious unpacking. It’s not enough to show a passage of Renan’s and demonstrate that his Semites are ‘sterile’--I want to know how that construction is achieved, why it is important, how it operates culturally and psychologically, how it offers an important and vital insight into this interaction. And yet, just as he seems to be reaching a kind of specificity, he breaks off:
“Why the Orient seems still to suggest not only fecundity but sexual promise (and threat) . . . is something on which one could speculate: it is not the province of my analysis here, alas, despite its frequently noted appearance.”
So then, if not that, what is the province of his analysis? It isn’t until his conclusion that he lays out his purpose and helps us to understand why he never extends to these sorts of specific conclusions, which made me wish that he had made his conclusion his introduction, so I wouldn’t have spent four-hundred pages wondering why he keeps stopping just at the point when it was starting to get interesting.
This is an academic work with a very narrow scope. It is meant to give a view of a very specific trend in Orientalist criticism amongst a group of authors, and not to force on the reader any specific conclusion about what this trend means, or how it operates on a minute level, except to point out that it exists and that it represents standard power dynamics. That is the purpose and the effect of this book, and it invites the reader to use it to extend these examples into specific arguments and observations of their own, to use the general roadmap provided as a guide for their own work. The fact that it has become the central text on the subject is an accident of time and place, for that was not the author’s purpose, nor is this a transformative, revelatory work that sets out a specific theory of analysis for looking at Orientalist works, as I wish it had been.
In the end, Said’s Orientalism is not a primer, but an experiment which is incomplete without further scholarship on the part of the reader. Since Said is not specific, we cannot know just how accurate his readings are unless we can compare them to our own readings of the same works, so it can only be a companion to our studies and not a work which, on its own, develops a unique view which we can use, as scholars, going forward....more
There's something terribly edifying when, having created your own rubric for how books should be judged, you happen to pick up the work from which allThere's something terribly edifying when, having created your own rubric for how books should be judged, you happen to pick up the work from which all literary criticism arose and find that you and Aristotle have independently produced the same system for judgment. I know it probably just trickled down to me through cultural osmosis, but it does give me hope that I'm putting the pieces together properly....more
Why is it that whenever a theory of social science is found to be flawed, and loses the respect of the scientific community, it manages to find new suWhy is it that whenever a theory of social science is found to be flawed, and loses the respect of the scientific community, it manages to find new success as a branch of literary criticism? Freud's theories are by this point laughable, and yet they persist as viable modes of literary analysis. Marx's tautological economic theories have gone the same way. If I had to predict, I'd say Chomsky is up next.
There is a point at which ahistoricism and structuralism are willing to accept any method, any idea, any theory, and clasp it close, independent of whether it has any worth. Many literary critics seem to judge an idea good not due to its merit, but its novelty and outrageousness.
Alan Sokal would go further and say that the upper echelon of Literary criticism, the tenured professors, the peer-reviewed journals, and the most successful critics are more interested in vague, garbled nonsense than in really sound or revolutionary ideas. Which is why he famously submitted an essay filled with jargon terms, popular ideas, and quotes from the right people, but comically nonsensical and scientifically childish, and of course it was accepted, printed and lauded.
This book, like much of Sokal's work, is aimed at debunking the modern powerhouses of literary criticism, by the simple act of pointing out that their rhetoric, definitions, and understanding of the scientific principles they invoke are entirely flawed and amount to nonsense.
Even to those of us without Sokal's scientific background, it quickly becomes clear that Lacan and Derrida (and to a lesser extent, Foucault and Barthes) are just sensationalist, erudite nonsense, and that they are only quoted so often because little they say has any foundation in reality, and hence, they can be used to support or refute anything.
Hopefully the bloated, meandering heads of academia will soon be shamed into doing real work by the efforts of men like Sokal. It would be nice to return to some semblance of reason and rhetoric in the Lit Crit field.
Hopefully I'll find a copy of this book to go through, myself. Though Dawkins isn't my favorite, I have to thank him for cluing me into Sokal, and to the Postmodernism Generator, which creates random postmodernist papers whenever you hit refresh, and which are surprisingly difficult to tell from the work of real postmodernists....more
Here, notable dramatist and theater critic Bentley presents a compelling argument about Shaw, if not for Shaw. Shaw said many things, and his most proHere, notable dramatist and theater critic Bentley presents a compelling argument about Shaw, if not for Shaw. Shaw said many things, and his most prominent and notorious utterances have come to define him, and they do not paint a very flattering picture. His Prefaces, in particular, are filled with infamous remarks, incomplete arguments, and unclear sarcasm.
A reader with a passing familiarity with Shaw has almost no choice but to take all of these statements at face value, and to conclude that Shaw is either scatterbrained or hypocritical. Yet it is Bentley's assertion that Shaw has a fully-developed, concrete philosophy which underpins all of his writing.
He suggests that Shaw purposefully created an infamous front, saying things which were sure to invite vitriolic responses. He reveled in the role of Devil's Advocate, defending the undefendable and attacking the sacred. Attacking the sacred has always been the prerogative of the author, defending the awful, less so. The problem with devilish advocacy is that it is an attempt to promote the bad over the good. It is not merely a reasonable defense of the unpopular, but an unreasonable defense of a bad concept.
But it does get you attention. For Bentley, Shaw's downfall is that his bombastic public persona so overtakes him that he can never be taken seriously, nor can he discourse reasonably. He is trapped in the role of the eternal iconoclast, and Bentley gives several examples of Shaw's disappointment with the fact that his philosophies are never taken seriously, but his inflammatory remarks always are.
Bentley's argument holds up because he draws from so many sources. It could not be made even from a familiarity with Shaw's major works. Bentley has to rely a great deal on letters, individual lectures, and other such detritus of Shaw's long career–and it is long.
He has quotes by Shaw to support every point he makes, and others to contradict the arguments of other Shaw critics. Yet Bentley also points out that Shaw has said so much, on so many subjects, that his critics may simply pick and choose and support their own interpretation. These critics take those things they agree with and group them under the 'good Shaw' and place all the rest under a separate, 'flawed Shaw'. But is Bentley doing the same thing?
He has separated the private, thoughtful Shaw from the public, caustic Shaw. Bentley doesn't shy away from Shaw's most notorious remarks; his defense of Hitler, of Stalin, of culling political dissidents, his hatred of inoculation. Bentley shows his character and his completeness by trying to make these statements fit into Shaw's overall philosophy of humanitarianism.
Easiest are the statements about Hitler and Stalin, which were meant not as direct praise, but as slights against politics at home. Shaw sought to wake people up to the fact that tyranny and inequality were not solely of the continent. As a young socialist, he criticized the communists for resorting so quickly to violence, and as an old socialist, he used Stalin to criticize British Socialism for resorting to upheaval too late. FDR and Churchill praised Hitler and Stalin before their regimes resorted to mass killings.
Shaw's hatred of inoculation, which was vitriolic and lasted his whole life, repeatedly popping up in his prefaces apropos of nothing, can also be explained, at least in part. To Shaw, the emerging class of doctors was just a new priesthood, swindling the people and passing down holy truths from on high. Bentley quotes a doctor who says that in the early stages, inoculation and germ theory did reach the level of religious fervor, leading to widespread quackery. So we may forgive Shaw slightly for this opinion.
His support of the secret police and their killings of 'undesirables' and 'radicals' is not explained away so easily. After all, it conflicts directly with his equally vehement dislike of censorship of any type. Clearly, if the secret police are going to kill the unpopular, outspoken rebels, then Shaw would be first on the chopping block.
If we accept that Shaw does have a reasonable philosophy behind what he says, then we have to assume that this is another sarcastic metaphor which he never bothers to explain. Bentley mentions and tries to come to terms with many of these, and they are very common among his lengthy prefaces.
One, in his preface to Androcles and the Lion, I took to be a sudden, inexplicable resort to the 'skeptic's argument' which was apparently unrelated to the text before or after it. Shaw argued that since the number seven was sacred to medievalists, they would be right in saying that the sun was seven miles away. He then proceeds to say that therefore, since our scientists say the sun is several million miles away, it is only because our sacred number is a million.
I saw a man who doesn't know the difference between a million and seven, but Bentley has another take: Shaw is saying that to the common man, seven miles sounds just as reasonable as a million, and that the astrologist and the astronomer are passing down sacred truths on the populace in the same ways.
One flaw in the argument is that while mystical astrology is secretive, the methods and purposes of science are easier to devise. There are certainly scientists who treat it as sacred, but that isn't usually the intent. The bigger flaw with the metaphor is that Shaw never makes it clear what he's getting at. The argument doesn't flow from what comes before it (an analysis of the conflicts between the gospels) or what comes after (Shaw arguing Jesus was a socialist).
Like a great deal of Shaw, the point of the argument might be interesting, but Shaw never makes it there. Bentley argues that Shaw never intended to write for a particular audience, but this makes Shaw's constant disappointment in being misunderstood seem disingenuous. I'd suggest that Shaw's writing is for a very specific audience, but one that never existed. He seems to expect his reader to be clever enough to understand his convoluted, acerbic, sarcastic arguments, but not clever enough to have already reached a reasonable conclusion on their own.
Shaw didn't actually write for a 'genius born yesterday', his inability to get his point across comes from another source. Bentley succeeds in presenting a fairly strong front for Shaw's ideas, but never addresses whether or not the ideas were good per se. Bentley likely didn't consider this to be his role as a critic, instead preferring to present Shaw as he is and let us decide.
But Bentley does show that Shaw was not in the habit of researching the theories behind his ideas. His plays were often filled with bizarre anachronisms, beggaring the question: why did Shaw bother to write plays set in colonial America if he doesn't even know where Boston is in relation to New York?
His philosophies are likewise beset with difficulties; he is another moral socialist with no concept of economic or social theory. He believes in things because he likes to believe in them, and he adopts new ideas quickly, rarely bothering to fact-check. He immerses himself in the dialogue about wrong and right, but not in the theory that it was developed from. It is then no wonder that he criticizes the scientific community a a church, because he does not put much stock in basing ideas upon fundamental knowledge.
Shaw isn't the first author to be widely misunderstood and vilified. He mentions Nietzsche in some of his plays, and there were a number of concepts on which they agreed; but anyone who has heard the horror stories about Nietzsche can prove them wrong simply by reading him. Shaw is not so lucky. In order to believe he is reasonable and deliberate requires not only the tireless work of a clever apologist synthesizing all of his works into a whole, but to constantly give Shaw the benefit of the doubt and assume he's being reasonable, even when he is being deliberately unreasonable.
It's all a bit much for me. Shaw can be interesting, funny, and clever, but I'm not convinced he knows what he's doing. He's far too spotty. He'll follow one of his best works with one of his worst, and write a preface that tells you nothing about the play, and likely conflicts directly with the points the play makes.
Shaw isn't brilliant, he never had things figured out, and the fact that he acted as if he did was his worst and most destructive affectation. His need to be taken seriously was always undermined by the fact that he never took his own arguments seriously. He used every perceived failure as an excuse to be difficult.
This might at first seem to be merely a failing of character, but I find Shaw's hyperbolistic iconoclasm to be unsettlingly familiar. The man of ideas who puts himself on a public stage is hazarding himself and his philosophy. There will always be backlash, always critics, and while some of them may be interesting and make viable points, the vast majority will simply be ignorant and angry.
At this point, it is easy to paint the audience at large as an ill-informed, overly emotional mob. Once this has been acknowledged, the author feels no reason to address them directly, instead making jokes, asides, and baiting comments. He becomes entrapped in his own small world where may not be right, but is at least reasonable, and certainly isn't one of the rabid idiots.
This kind of hopelessness is almost guaranteed in an author who chooses to be both public and controversial. His first few attempts at correction or argument will be directed and thoughtful, but here's the problem: his thoughtful, patient responses will receive almost exactly the same response as his ridiculous posturing, and posturing takes less of an emotional toll than trying to be reasonable to a crowd of the proudly ignorant.
So Shaw, like so many authors, hardened himself and distanced himself, unable to convince anyone with his best arguments, he saw no reason to continue putting them forth to the world, and began simply criticizing the world for not taking his well-meaning advice. This posture, even when half-jest, is a mirroring of the antagonism of the masses; the author feels he must become as self-assured and dismissive at the mob, but you can't beat the mod at it's own game.
If you play the game of aggressive histrionics, the mob already has you; at least, it has a part of you. And so Shaw got caught up in his own public image, feeling attacked and disrespected from all sides and changing his style so that every time he intended to write to a public of intelligent, open-minded readers, he fell back on a defensive and overwrought posture that was bound to alienate many of them.
But this is not Bentley's argument, but my own observation. I feel it is closer to the truth regarding Shaw's internal conflicts and the difference between his public and private faces.
This conflict makes it even more remarkable that he was able to write some entertaining, thoughtful works, works which undeniably have their moments of philosophical intrigue. Apparently, if a confused and misguided man produces a large enough oeuvre, some of his uncorrupted thought will still shine through. At least, as long as he's reasonably funny, clever, and willing to take risks.
All I can think of is what he might have done with his talents if he had written not for the ignorant audience with which he constantly clashed, but for the ideal intelligent, reasonable audience. Just because you cannot see them out there, cannot hear them over the clamor, does not mean they aren't there to listen; and this is the greatest lesson we can learn from the Shaw: that descending to the level of our most vocal critics makes less of our work, our ideas, and our arguments.
Perhaps this is why so many great thinkers were also hermits: not because thinking and hermitage go hand in hand, but because the lone thinker can write purely without condescending to the least of men. There is an irony in the fact that Nietzsche's silent, sickly life alone produced a philosophy that celebrates and longs for humanity, in all its dark, emotional fervor, while Socrates, who spent each day ridiculing and condescending to men, created a philosophy that makes man, living, and the world nothing, and his own, alternative, internal world everything.
I can never trust a philosopher who disregards and talks around an idea; it makes him more sure of himself than he has reason to be....more
Sometimes, I grow the silly delusion that I might have the potential to be a writer. As a curative, I read this, Lycidas, and Hours of Idleness; thenSometimes, I grow the silly delusion that I might have the potential to be a writer. As a curative, I read this, Lycidas, and Hours of Idleness; then I recall that not only am I not a writer, I am old....more
This book's primary thesis is that the Marquis De Sade is the father of modern feminism. For the uninitiated, De Sade's works are infamous for their dThis book's primary thesis is that the Marquis De Sade is the father of modern feminism. For the uninitiated, De Sade's works are infamous for their depictions of sexual humiliation and cruelty. We get the term 'sadism' from the sex practices he fearlessly explored.
Against all expectation, Carter supports this seemingly absurd thesis in a way that is lucid, reasonable, insightful, and even amusing. It seems there is a gift for women in Donatien's mad sensual rebellion, after all.
I have struggled for some time in trying to review this book, simply because it is still beyond me how anyone could be smart and talented enough to propose something so outlandish, and then to make it seem the most natural thing in the world.
Carter's observations on sexuality, gender, and pornography are as remarkable as Foucault's, with none of the meandering semiotics. Her ability to say precisely what she means, both evocatively and concisely never ceased to impress me.
She also suggests that many commonly accepted aspects of feminism are not only narrow-minded, but counterproductive. For instance: she presents how the popular 'mother goddess' figure is just another way to entrap women into the role of 'baby factory'--even making them proud of their one-dimensional existence. Of course, she says it better than I.
This book was roundly and vehemently criticized by high-ranking feminists when it was published. They could see no way that their plight could possibly be illuminated in the works of any man, let alone a man possessed of a perverse and dehumanizing sexuality.
They were uninterested in looking for a commonality with someone they were so clearly superior to. Contrarily, Carter shows that when we are able to connect ourselves to those we instinctively draw away from, we can move further from our narrow selves and closer to humanity.
How can a movement seek to move beyond mere gender definition and call itself 'feminism'? Would we call a movement to erase the delineation between rich and poor 'povertism'?
If the goal of feminism is to remove the discrepancies and prejudices between the sexes, why not name the philosophy after the goal instead of the conflict? 'Humanism' always sounded good to me.
Carter likewise desires to reach beyond barriers, refusing to accept a strict delineation between smut and philosophy. Her willingness to search for insight in the last place expected makes her first unique, and second, revolutionary. It is all too sad that modern sexual theory is still far behind the mark Carter set, it's current vanguard having neither the imagination nor the daring to match her, let alone excel beyond her....more