Thursday, March 11, 2010

More Mika!

Hey everyone! So I just found this amazing video that I think creates the look we were trying to go for with our original idea of having the "queer" cookies. Plus it's Mika, who is not only amazing, but he has been mentioned multiple times in our blog!

Here is the video:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Queer Cookies!

To spice up our presentation, Group 2 decided to bake various cookies that related to our journey throughout the quarter. For our classmates, we baked gingerbread and heart shaped cookies in which we would like the class to decorate. These specific shapes symbolize the characters and the romantic relationships that we have read about in the various novels this quarter. To show our true creative abilities, we prepared a decorated plate of cookies for Professor Moddelmog representing different aspects of the class reading assignments.

Description starting at the top left.
1) The fish and palm tree are both representative of Ernest Hemingway's The Garden of Eden. While celebrating their honeymoon on the beaches of Europe, David caught a fish.
2) The flower and the dog cookies are both representing aspects of the short stories we read from author Jose Villa. The flower of forgiveness as well as the story of the dog he found are part of his rocky relationship with his father.
3) The Pride Flag is representative of our investigation of same-sex love relationships throughout the quarter as well as our personal journeys of defining the word "queer".
4) The trophy cookie labeled "#1 host" is in reference to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway in which Clarissa was deemed " the perfect hostess" by Peter Walsh.
5) The house shaped cookie on the end is labeled "The Manor" to represent Niggeratti Manor in Wallace Thurman's Infants of the Spring.

Description starting at the bottom left.
1) The three trees represent the "greenwood" in E.M. Forster's Maurice. The cross is a depiction of the religious discourse used in the novel that shows Clive's struggle to balance religious identity and his homosexual feelings.
2) Lastly, the 3 gingerbread shaped cookies are representative of queer characters we have read about this quarter.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An Exploration of Queer

Our class title being "Queer Modernism" meant that we should really explore these two words to understand the class. While exploring the word queer, I discovered that even though we used it positively in class, it still can be used in negative ways. The popular football game known as "Smear the Queer" for example. While words only hurt if you let them, I still associate the word with the original implications of being weird and out of the ordinary. In our modern times it is important that people with atypical sexualities do not feel that the way they were born makes them strange. This causing alienation, and while the word queer does have positive meanings for some now, I explore why it does not go far enough.

A simple explanation of the word queer does not exist. Ranging from the widely accepted definition of “odd or unconventional” to “offensive slang for homosexual.”* Instead of being defined as either of these words, it is more likely that these two definitions show the history of the word as a timeline. When the word first came into usage it was used for something that was not defined, or seemed out of the ordinary. As time progressed it became a derogatory term used against homosexuals. This term was used because homosexuals were deemed strange and abnormal. Now, many members of the LGBT community have taken the word back and use it to put themselves beyond definition. By using this word to define themselves, they are showing that the negative connotations previously associated with the word no longer affect them, though the word still has the "abnormal" meaning for many.

The word queer has been used in media for several shows including Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Queer as Folk. These shows, like most other representations of homosexuals in the media, tend to further stereotypes. The word queer in these cases does not follow the idea of remaining undefined, but follows the stereotype of homosexual men being different from straight men beyond the bounds of sexuality alone. The opening sequence from Queer Eye alone shows how gay men are shown in the media. The word queer is not being used in a progressive way in these cases, but is instead furthering the stereotypes surrounding gay men. As much as the new meaning of queer attempts to be “undefined,” the old stigmas of the word remain.

Queer is a word that, like most words, can change with context. In this class we have learned that this word aims to break categories, and show that not everything has to fit into nicely controlled boxes, but by creating a word that aims to defeat category barriers, it becomes a category itself. Using the word queer no longer offers the empowerment it originally aimed to provide, instead it has just become a word that is interchangeable with all other words that define LGBT community member. What I have learned is that while queer is a valid attempt, it is better to just say, “I don’t classify myself under any term, because by terming what I am, I am putting myself into a box.”

*The Free Dictionary
**Image from Kulturni Center Q


“Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, category. Just as it cannot be reduced to abstract form, with equal necessity it must turn its back on conventional surface coherence, the appearance of harmony, the order corroborated merely by replication.”

-Theodor Adorno, philosopher and composer

“Make it new!”

-Ezra Pound, writer

(If you heard this quipped in Tim Gunn’s voice, don’t judge yourself: it’s only natural.)

In the world of visual art the focus shifted away from replicating the appearance of the world to replicating its essence. Thus, color and shape, and their arrangement became the focus.

Modernism in literature was most focused between the years 1915 and 1945, in visual art the period lasted much longer. It was a reaction to the changing world, which was becoming more industrial and efficient--a world in which the assembly line reigned and the average worker was distanced from his final product.

Modernism played a lot with form.

In literature think: Virginia Woolf’s “tunneling technique”, Jose Villa’s excessive use of commas/his visiting and re-visiting of the same ideas, Bruce Nungent’s play with ellipses.

In visual art think: Pablo Picasso’s cubism, Salvador Dali’s surrealism, Piet Mondrian’s play with color and shape

In his essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch art critic Clement Greenberg rejected consumer culture, labling it “kitsch”. He saw modernism as a counter-movement against the forces of popular culture, and ultimately, capitalism. He argued that the avant-garde movement came about to reclaim the aesthetic value of art, which was being eliminated for the sake dumbing-down of art in an attempt to make it more accessible to the masses.


A Definition of Gender Performance

Gender is defined as sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture; The condition of being female or male; sex; females or males considered as a group:expressions used by one gender*. Performance is defined as the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.; the execution or accomplishment of work, acts, feats, etc.; a particular action, deed, or proceeding; the act of performing; or the manner in which or the efficiency with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose*. In accordance with Judith Butler’s idea of gender performance, it seems as though the best definitions to be used are “sexually identity, especially in relation to society or culture,” and “the manner in which or the efficiency with which something reacts or fulfills its intended purpose.” Males and females within society, especially American society, are expected to comply with certain gender roles according to the sex of which they are born. Females are expected to be caregivers, motherly, good cooks, cleaners, and still able to look good in a bathing suit. Males must be into sports, show less emotion than women, and be the provider. At least these are what are still thought of as “traditional” gender roles in our society, even though with time they are beginning to change.

However, there is this mythical norm of male and female, but no one falls in complete accordance with it. Gender is a socially constructed idea, yet people generally follow those norms and those who deviate are viewed as strange or “queer.” Butler states, “The body is only know through its gendered appearance,” (406)** and most people tend to fall into this category. What are we but confines of our gender based on are sex? Those who deviate are the brave, because most people will stay with the norms of society, because, as Butler warns, “Those who fail to do their gender right are regularly punished,”(405)** and there is definite evidence of that in American society. People are regularly harassed or shown violence because they do not fully identify (or identify at all) with the sex that they were born. Gender performance is a crucial part of society, because gender and gender identity seem so important to society.


** Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Writing on the Body. Ed. Carolyn G. Heilbrun and Nancy K. Miller. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. 401-417. Print.

Hemingway Woman

The Hemmingway Woman

After reading both The Sun Also Rises and The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemmingway it is clear that there is a new kind of woman that is created in these novels. For example, Catherine is a completely different character than what we normally would see from a novel that started around 1946. During this time period women were expected to be pleasant homemakers, take care of their husbands, have children, and essentially be submissive. However Catherine cannot have children, she wants to make all of the decisions about her and David’s life, and she’s the one who takes control over the narrative. This combined with the fact that she has bisexual tendencies creates a template for what “the new woman” is turning into. For instance, one major change that has occurred in “the new woman” is her assertiveness and desire to be in control of the relationship rather than her submissive nature. A new woman pushed against the limits set by male-dominated society, especially as modeled in the plays of Norwegian Henrik Ibsen (1828 - 1906). "The New Woman sprang fully armed from Ibsen's brain," according to a joke by Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956). “The idea of the new woman was also classified as an icon of changing gender norms which first emerged in the late nineteenth century. Less constrained by Victorian norms and domesticity than previous generations, the new woman had greater freedom to pursue public roles and even flaunt her "sex appeal," a term coined in the 1920s and linked with the emergence of the new woman. She challenged conventional gender roles and met with hostility from men and women who objected to women's public presence and supposed decline in morality. Expressing autonomy and individuality, the new woman represented the tendency of young women at the turn of the century to reject their mothers' ways in favor of new, modern choices.” This is seen a lot in The Garden of Eden with Catherine who is at the central of all the sexual relationships within the novel and could certainly be seen as the most perverse of the three characters. She loves being nude out in public at beaches, she explores a homosexual relationship with Marita and transforms herself into looking more like a man (dressing in men’s clothes and a boyish hair cut). Catherine would be prime example of the ideals that centered around the new woman of the 1920s and one of Hemingway’s favorite character types.


also check out this website for the trailer to the movie because it looks absolutely fantastic!

Exploring Michel Foucault: A Wikipedia Search

Search: Michael Foucault

Did you mean? Michel Foucault

Yes. Click.

Heading: Madness and Civilization

Surface Level: This was Foucault’s first book. It focuses on madness/treatment of the mad.

Deeper: He notes transformation of ‘madness’ into ‘mental illness’. Semantics are everything. He argues that though this seems like a big shift, the treatment for mental illness at the time was cruel.

Heading: The Birth of the Clinic

Surface Level: Foucault’s next book, it looks at the medicine and teaching hospitals.

Deeper: Again, Foucault zooms in on discourse. He talks about “regard (translated by Alan Sheridan as ‘medical gaze’)”. Normally this medical gaze is limited to medical facilities, but Foucault asserts that it’s spread and effects the population at large. Clinical discourse created paradigms that defined populations. (Think: Stephen Gordon in Radclyffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness. Medical discourse clearly affected and dominated her perception of herself. Immediately she identified with this clinical text, and it became a part of her identity.)

Heading: Death and The Labryinth

Surface Level: Foucault’s book about the literature of Raymond Roussel, an experimental writer.

Heading: The Order of Things

Surface Level: Foucault asserts that conditions of society determine its discourses about what is acceptable, and that these conditions and there fore discourses and norms change. The book begins with a discussion of Diego Velazquez’s painting Las Meninas. He describes in detail the painter’s “complex arrangement of sight-lines, hiddenness and appearance.”

Deeper: Presumably the painting serves as a metaphor for society’s layers and “sight-lines” which determine discourse and what is socially acceptable. Thinking about painting/art as a metaphor for language can be helpful also in thinking about change. It’s much more apparent how graphic art has changed than the more subtle changes that language has undergone, but it is these changes that govern. (An example of medical discourse governing the population: the DSM denoted homosexuals as “sick” until 1973. Much like transsexuals today, who have to accept diagnoses of gender dysphoria, accept that they’re “sick” or “abnormal” before they’re allowed to have a surgery to reconcile their physical bodies with their gender identities.)

Heading: The Archaeology of Knowledge

Surface Level (which is, in this case, very deep): The truth and meaning of language is derived not just from words, but from how those words fit into larger discourses. “Statements constitute a network of rules establishing what is meaningful, and these rules are the preconditions for propositions, utterances, or speech acts to have meaning.” In other words, unlike structuralists, Faucault thinks that words create disourse which allows for meaning and truth--words have to be understood within the context of a certain time period/social era. (Conversely, structuralists think meaning comes from strict semantics.)

Heading: Discipline and Punish

Surface Level: Foucault looks at modes of punishment and asserts that “visibility is a trap” through which society exercises its control over individuals. He famously, talks about Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon” and his own idea of “power-knowledge”. Power-knowledge, significantly links the concepts of power (of the institution) to knowledge (about the individual), which is achieved through visibility/surveillance via government workers like police and teachers.

Heading: The History of Sexuality

Surface Level: Book one attacks the repressive hypothesis: says instead that people were “incited to discourse.” The second two books talk about sex in ancient Greece and Rome.

An Interpretation of the “Greenwood”: A Social and Economic Utopia

E.M. Forster’s revolutionary novel, Maurice, was started in 1913, and the masterpiece was completed a year later in 1914. Being “dedicated to a happier year”, the novel was not published until after Forster’s death in 1971. With homosexuality being classified by many as a disease, crime, and/or a congenital variation, Forster pushed the envelope by developing a novel in which same-sex love resulted in a happy ending. Today, the novel is still regarded as one of the first reverse discourses on homosexuality in which same-sex love was portrayed in a positive light. Since homosexual relations were considered unlawful and taboo in British society at this time, the novel concludes with Maurice and Alec retreating into the “greenwood,” where they could finally escape the homophobic restrictions of society. Forster created these characters after the real -life couple of Edward Carpenter and George Merrill, who also retreated into a rural area in order to live a life without societal constraints. Many critics of Forster’s work argue that homophobia caused Maurice and Alec to retreat into the “greenwood.” However, by taking into account the social class tensions displayed throughout the novel, it is easy to see that the “greenwood” not only ended social pressures (i.e. homosexual restrictions), but it also served as a economic utopia in which the rigid class structure of British society vanished. Ultimately, the rigid class lines, as well as the homophobic social order, cause both of these “couples” to move into the “greenwood” in order to break free of civilization and truly live without feeling restricted because of the judgment of others. The role of class-consciousness in this text as well as sexual “norms” are used as a way to depict the pressures of British society; this immensely impacts their decisions to create a new life outside of British society’s boundaries. The significance of social class structure can be seen throughout the novel in various, subtle forms.

Maurice’s social class identity can be seen in assorted aspects of his life, and this is important to focus on since these small clues will later infer the reasons for why he chooses to escape to the “greenwood.” In the novel, Maurice attends preparatory school, and he is given private “life” lessons by his teachers outside of the classroom. For instance, after Mr. Ducie explains sex to him, Maurice responds by saying, “I think I shall not marry” (Forster 15). The fact that he attends private schools and has individual interaction with his teacher indicates his middle-class status. Due to his economic upbringing and preparatory schooling, Maurice believes his homosexual attractions are rare and unique only to him since the hierarchical society seems to silence others with these tendencies (Harned 59). This later foreshadows the idea that if society silences homosexuals, the only way to be yourself is by leaving these rigidly- constructed preconditions behind. Also, Forster describes Maurice’s home as “a comfortable villa among some pines” (16). This is another line of the novel that paints a picture of a privileged and comfortable life. Similarly, the interactions with Dr. Barry show that the Hall family presides in the same neighborhood as highly educated and presumably wealthy individuals. Dr. Barry also presents the clue that Maurice’s deceased father worked in the Stock Exchange hinting to the family’s economic status (Forster 26). Another important point to identify is that after arriving home, Maurice questions where George, the Hall’s young servant, went (Forster 17). Later while thinking of George’s departure, Maurice refers to him as “just a common servant” in which he deemed his family as far more important (Forster 20). This statement illustrates that since George was of a lower class his presence is missed, but he is easily disposed of because of societal norms. However, his sexual attraction to George reemerges in a dream Maurice has while attending Sunnington (Forster 22). This dream demonstrates that Maurice continues to long for George in a sexual way, and he may be willing to break free from society in order to make this dream a reality. This is an early link to Maurice and Alec’s relationship of pursing their homosexual fantasies in a safe-space away from societal concerns about same-sex love and social statues. After graduation, Maurice went on to study at Cambridge in which prestige and social class could be seen in their clearest form. At this time, his homosexual feelings are reciprocated by his schoolmate, Clive Durham. In terms of class consciousness, Clive represents an elite branch of society in which group acceptance is typically more important than happiness. At the end of the novel, when Maurice informs Clive about his relationship with Alec, Clive becomes angry and wants to respond violently. However, Clive refrains from the use of violence because he considers them “Cambridge men…pillars of society”; it would be “wrong” for him to respond in such a manner (Forster 243). These subtle clues found intertwined in the text expose the reality that class issues are important to note as a reason for Alec and Maurice’s departure into their own equalitarian society.

From the beginning of their relationship, it is evident that class distinction would try to separate Maurice and Alec since they belonged to two different strata in the social sphere. Later, they would have to flee from not only homophobia, but they would also have to escape rigid class barriers in order for their relationship to flourish. Maurice meets Alec while visiting Clive’s home in Penge, and he works for the Durham family as their gamekeeper. Forster intentionally refers to Alec as “Scudder,” his last name, until Maurice finally asks him his “other” name after their first night of passion (195). By referring to Maurice and Clive by their first names and Alec by his last name only, Forster emphasizes the differences in their social statuses. Not only would the homosexuality challenge society’s conception of if they belonged together, but Alec and Maurice would also have to break through the social astrosphere in which their class differences also opposed the normality of most class structured relationships. Another significant scene shows Maurice starting to feel guilty over having to pay for Alec’s affection (Harned 64). This is a normal interaction since Alec is of working class, and Maurice is an affluent guest of the elite Durhams. However, this is a complication that class distinction facilitates in their relationship. This also leads to Maurice becoming paranoid as he begins to question Alec’s intention because of the economic element of mistrust (Centola 60-61). Would Alec expose Maurice’s homosexual tendencies in order to blackmail him for a monetary subsidy? This paranoia does not persist, but it does create some tension due to British society’s constructed roles of working class and educated, middle class individuals. In relation to class importance, critics claim that Alec is “fighting against the forces of the bourgeois conformity for Maurice’s very soul” (Quince 110). Not only was Alec fighting homophobia, but he was also trying to free Maurice from the class sanctions on their relationship. Thus, it is evident that these underlying class issues plague Maurice and Alec’s relationship without even mention of their homosexuality.

With the significance of class consciousness throughout the text noted previously, it is important now to see why economic constructs along with social structures provide the foundation for why Alec and Maurice and their real life counterparts Edward Carpenter and George Merrill choose to life outside of society’s norms. According to critic Don Gorton, the quote “outside class and without relations or money” was used as a way to show how the real-life relationship of Edward Carpenter and George Merrill succeeded in the rural Derbyshire (20). Carpenter was a “proto gay activist” and his partner, George Merrill, was part of Britain’s working class, and they were the inspiration for the characters of Maurice and Alec (Gorton 20). Thus, it is imperative for Alec and Maurice to overcome their class differences in order for their relationship to thrive. This was difficult due to the “suffocating English class system” in which homosexuality provided an escape to happiness (Gorton 20). As Carpenter and Merrill decided to live in the rural Derbyshire where class distinctions did not affect their love for one another, Forster portrayed these realistic events in the end of the novel. Maurice and Alec leave their former lives behind in order to retreat into the “greenwood” in which their physical and emotional relationship could not be bothered by what society deemed as “normal”. Therefore, Carpenter and Merrill’s relationship illustrates that a major reason to live outside of society’s pressures was due to the rigid class structure in Great Britain. Forster uses their experience as a way to end the novel in a happy way suggesting that Maurice and Alec were able to leave behind the binding and hierarchal structure of civilization. Not only were these couples escaping homophobic tendencies, but also, they yearned for a socialist atmosphere in which equality prevailed.

On the surface, as many critics discuss, the reason for Alec and Maurice’s retreat into the “greenwood” is not just due to the homophobia of society. Another underlying issue in the text is the class-consciousness seen in every aspect of the book. From the notoriety of a prestigious Cambridge education to the intentional usage of “Scudder” when referring to Alec, E.M. Forster provides a strong undercurrent of clues supporting the idea that the rigid economic structure of British society was a key reason causing the men to give up everything in order to find happiness in each other. Forster used Edward Carpenter and George Merrill’s relationship as a template for which to provide a happy ending to the novel. This real life couple lived a rural area in order to avoid societal concerns about inter-class love as well as homosexuality. This successful precedent allowed Forster to depict Maurice and Alec retreating into the “greenwood.” As the text shows, class is a very important element that shapes their decision to leave everything behind for happiness. It is not enough to say that homosexuality is the sole cause for their departure, but yet class- consciousness is another reason for them to create their social and economic utopia in the “greenwood.” This was a place where socialism prevailed and differences vanished. Their decision to retreat into the “greenwood” is limited without taking note of the economic pressures presented when they decide to cross class lines.

**Works Cited available upon request!
* Image from google images :