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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Henry James:The Turn of the Screw Reading

Barnes and Noble

Oscar Wilde: It is a most wonderful, lurid, poisonous little tale
This is a 1984 Edition and the Introduction is so outdated even for the time it was written. Foucault died in 1984 and Anthony Curtis seems never to have heard any literary criticism newer than Edmund Wilson and Freudian Interpretation of hysteria. He is also woefully lacking in any feminist reading of this great novel. But many reviews on a google search reveal that time has caught up at last for this story.

James himself tosses off this story as "just a ghost story" kind of frivolous story. My reading of The Turn of the Screw reads the ghosts as MASKS concealing the REAL of childhood sexual abuse in the upper classes of England.

Turn of the Screw first published in serial form in 1898 (Collier's) is followed in 1906 by Freud and Breuer's Studies in Hysteria. (also in pdf) This seems to be where Anthony Curtis stopped thinking.

All of us who took an English Literature course in high school or college were assigned the reading of this long short story or novella. As a ghost story and a scary one. As James says in his preface his way was to engage the imagination of the reader to imagine the horror instead of literally writing all the gory details. He does, however,  make sure we read the horror as sexual, if we are awake while reading it. Peter Lang says the same in his masterpiece film M with Peter Lorre.

M (1931) If you have never seen it here it is.

Our Twenty-First Century perception gives us a vastly different reading than all those years ago. We who have been online to know the atrocities of sex slavery, kidnapping of young children, breeding of female sex slaves to raise children used to nothing else as future commodities is to just about collapse our imagination into dirt. The REAL is so much worse than we could ever have known that we shut down. It also seems obvious to my perception that this sort of sexual abuse was a prevalent practice among the governesses and servants in wealthy aristocratic estates. James is I believe saying this by MASKING the REAL as a ghost story.

The master interviews the prospective governess in London and he is a charming man. She is taken with him but I would not say excessively, but she is curious. He instructs her to NEVER contact him about anything in the country estate which she will preside over, nor the children, nor any gossip. NOTHING! She finds this strange, has doubts but decides to accept the position when it is offered.

The governess is read by earlier critics as an hysterical woman, a virgin, young, inexperienced and smitten with a passion for this master.

She is obviously in some level of denial but can share her fears with the head housekeeper Mrs. Grose, and can ask questions when she hallucinates a man on the roof, describing the former valet  (now dead)  - Peter Quint a play on Ibsen's Peer Gynt?-  to the master so precisely as an actor, with red hair, and not a gentleman, the woman names him. The governess repeats that he is not a gentleman  (unlike the master) oh no, but very handsome, a horror, clever and deep, and from that we intuit that he is a sexual predator that certain refined ladylike women instantly recognize and stay away from.

With our 21st Century eyes we have the master, who now lives in his townhouse in London, leaving his handsome valet in the country (not turned out to fend for himself). So can we say that he breaks the relationship either before the children come as a result of being orphaned, or after? At any rate he wishes nothing to do with his former valet. He himself is unmarried, leads a social life he does not want interfered with, so can we assume his relationship with his valet was homoerotic (many recent reviews do) and now over? It feels that way to me. James is seen as a homoerotic and some have even said had pedophiliac tendencies if he did not act on them. He is acutely aware of children's amazing capacities of perception and secret observations, thoughts and feelings. Not unlike Lewis Carroll and his Alice In Wonderland published in 1865. Surely James knew this book. Today both of them along with Darter would be rotting in prison.

The governess has shivery sensations, awaking at night, and she cannot shake them. The children are perfect. Enchanting, intelligent, imaginative, precocious, beautiful, entertaining and she cannot wish for more in either of them. (We will encounter the same defense mechanisms in Walter Sickert after undergoing THREE VIVISECTIONS (the last in 1865 in London) ON HIS GENITALS without ANESTHESIA, to turn him into a REAL BOY or else KILL HIM!)

 The boy Miles is home on summer vacation, having been expelled from boarding school. BUT FOR WHAT? Is that so difficult for us to figure out now? It becomes very clear to our eyes long before the end of the story when he says to his governess, "I said things to those boys I liked. They said things to boys they liked." Well just guess what those things were and this headmaster's horror of boy sexuality and perhaps experimentation that cannot be tolerated.

When the governess is with the little girl Flora by the lake hallucinating the ex-governess - Miss Jessel - (also now mysteriously dead) the child turns her back on the water and the image and plays with a little toy wooden boat putting the mast in the hole where it belongs. Much is made of this Freudian action by Curtis and other reviewers.

Is she telling the governess what happened by the side of the lake?
Is she unconsciously just putting the mast in the hole?
Is she consciously/unconsciously playing?
Is she seductively inviting the governess to respond to her sexual overtures?

IDK. But these are only a few of the readings of this image of her actions. I am sure there are more.

The governess is considered as an hysterical woman in an unconscious state of passion for the master whom she has only seen twice. Here we note the masculine interpretation of the woman in psychological terms outlined by Freud in his Studies of Hysteria. Breuer will abruptly terminate treatment with Anna O when she tells him she is pregnant with his baby. At that moment it must occur to him that everything she has told him about nursing her father and his advances "may also be phantasy" because he knows she cannot be pregnant by him. Is this where Freud gets his interpretation of sexual abuse phantasy instead of the actual abuse for which feminists have raked him over the coals and for which he still burns?

The governess is an amazing psychologist - read Henry James here - as she begins to perceive that these enchanting children are PERFORMING ENCHANTING just for her. Then she wonders if they perceive that she knows they are performing? And she censors her behavior to hide the fact that she knows. And the plot deepens into horror. The governess begins to imagine the horror the children experienced at the hands of these two adults. Quint seeks the company of Miles which is reciprocated and the two spend many hours walking together and talking. Miss Jessell is with Flora a great deal alone. The governess now knows Miss Jessell became a fallen woman with Quint and is greatly disturbed by the intimacy of Quint and Miles and Miss Jessell and Flora. As a virgin and sexual innocent she can imagine the sexual initiation of the children but lacks our ability to visualize exactly how far it might have progressed. As Quint tires of Miss Jessell the children are brought into it to "spice it up?" And as we know from de Sade the perversity only increases as adaptation ensues.

Of course James is able to imagine sexual horror I would venture. But how far. But I think his story is deliberately MASKING what existed between governesses and servants with the wealthy classes. Freud's patients were often first exposed to sexuality very young by them. We have The Wolfman and Dora just to mention two of them.

So as James tosses this story off as a fluffy little ghost story just as Graham Greene tossed off some of his novels as "entertainments."

Was he telling us in the future what was going on and the INVISIBLE VIOLENCE of it?

M (1931)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Schopenhauer on the Rights of Animals

Torture to get that lovely gait of a Tennessee Walking Horse
I argue that Schopenhauer’s description of (moral) rights to animals flows naturally from his distinctive analysis of the concept of a right. In contrast to those who regard rights as fundamental and then cast wrongdoing as a matter of violating rights, he takes wrong (Unrecht) to be the more fundamental notion and defines the concept of a right (Recht) in its terms. He then offers an account of wrongdoing which makes it plausible to suppose that at least many animals can be wronged and thus, by extension, have rights. The result, I argue, is a perspective on the nature of moral rights in general, and the idea of animal rights in particular, that constitutes an important and plausible alternative to the more familiar views advanced by philosophers in recent decades - Puryear LINK here.

Puryear has a prose style that is elegant, simple and so readable you won't be able to stop. He has zeroed in on Schopenhauer's impeccable thinking. Instead of advocating and arguing for the "rights of animals" he has tied rights to its negative WRONGDOING. We are used to thinking of our inalienable rights from our Constitution but it is so easy to spin them away as other "rights" have been spun -  not to mention the destruction of Planet Earth.

To take a concept such as RIGHTS and invert it, turn it on its head is a thought game Einstein often played. So this is what Schopenhauer does with The Rights of Animals.

He ties it to WRONGDOING. If an animal can be wronged, then that is what gives rights. 

Again. IF I can wrong you, that means you have rights. 

And Schopenhauer goes on to indelibly imprint it on your thinking that animals can be wronged and that ensures that they have rights. Tied to this is The WILL. If the will can be stopped, perverted, thwarted, that is a violation of rights. It is WRONGDOING. 

The next question to come up is, Do animals have will? And Puryear carefully details Schopenhauer's thinking. The conclusion is inescapable unless you are determined to be indifferent and dense about this subject. As Foucault might say that the plight of animals has become problematized in the western world.

How great an extension is it to ask about WRONGDOING to rivers, streams, salmon, mountains, et al. 

In the Ancient World rivers, oceans were anthropomorphically perceived as belonging to the world of a particular God. Poseidon/Neptune ruled the waves, Apollo the Sun, Diana the Moon, and each was angered if her world was disturbed or changed in any way not initiated by herself. 

The jump to perceiving rivers, et all, as capable of being WRONGED (poisoned, damned, made dead, etc) is a concept that feels perfectly true to many of us.

as anyone who knows a river intimately - or a stream - can testify to.
Thwarting the WILL of the river, stream is WRONGDOING!

This is inline with Schopenhauer's thinking from animals.

Can we extend it?

The Colorado River is now in court. WRONGDOING to The Colorado River is being presented in court. But on what foundation are its rights being protected, defended, its ruination continuing, etc. IF Schopenhauer's reasoning is not cemented into the court case Deep Green Resistance is bringing, then we may not win the verdict we want.

By the way Schopenhauer adds that these animal rights are independent of legal rights and do not depend on them.

I would demand a jury trial for The Colorado River which I think with inspired testimony could win, set a precedent, and begin a reversal of corporate and government compliance in the destruction of the Planet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reading Donald Trump Through Marshall McLuhan: Part 3 BANNING

Trump Signing An Executive Order-One of Many
Recently Trump signed an executive order repealing the ban Obama made on waste dumping into rivers, streams, etc.

Trump is subverting many other environmental BANS.

What is a BAN? 

It is a law that makes dumping - in this case - illegal. What does illegal entail? Only that it is a VIOLATION and a violation comes equipped with a FINE. Now if a corporation dumps into a river and a $200,000 or $300,000 or $1,000,000,000 fine gets slapped on them - IF THEY ARE CAUGHT AND PROSECUTED - their lawyers on retainer will take it to court, get multi continuances, drag it out as long as possible to forestall paying this fine for this violation. 

Meanwhile back at the ranch it would take say $6,000,000,000 to deal with the waste without dumping. So by dumping they save $6,000,000,000 and prolong the violation payment and perhaps even get it waived.


Obama banned waste dumping in rivers. He was cheered and loved for taking an environmental stand with integrity. Banning is CONTENT. What is the MESSAGE here of the Presidential MEDIUM? 
So Obama used banning as PR and as a way to collect HIDDEN TAXES.

Not so shabby eh.


Anything that is BANNED can be UNBANNED. 
A child's game of building a HOUSE OF CARDS.Build it up so another child can knock it down. 
Build it up knock it down.

This goes on through the decades as now LBJ's Great Society is being dismantled piece by piece and FDR's New Deal also.

But hey. Look at all the good PR Obama got by BANNING DUMPING!
Look at all the BAD PR Trump is getting by unbanning dumping. Sorry, unbanning appeals to a large segment of his constituency, while banning appealed to a large segment of Obama's constituency. Different strokes for different folks.

All that I said above is CONTENT. As McLuhan says, "CONTENT" is irrelevant. 
Obama's Ban had no teeth in it. It was never meant to have anything but gummy gums. 

It was a SPECTACLE concealing the REAL of EMPTINESS.

Were you fooled?
Are you still fooled?

My question is this: 
Is Trump using these executive orders as TEACHING MOMENTS to educate us on the futility of demanding bans on what we don't like? Is he using unbanning as a way of telling us that federal agencies are scamming us. IF they collect $$$$ from violations then their bottom line looks good eh. These federal agencies exist to collect hidden taxes.

So the MESSAGE is what?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Reading Trump Through Marshall McLuhan:The MEDIUM is the MESSAGE



Meanwhile back at the ranch online all discussion concerns CONTENT.
Especially his LIES

Trump LIES at least 6 times every day some stat person said. On Monday he says X and on Tuesday he contradicts X and on Wednesday he contradicts what he said on Tuesday and so on and so on as Vonnegut always said.

Trump lies excessively. He lies worse and worser. He is the worsest liar of all.

This is Nietzsche. You want to get rid of something? You do it WORSE and WORSER!

The focus on CONTENT allows distraction to rule. 

Is this something new? Nope. 

The Trump Administration is a MEDIUM. 

So what is the MESSAGE in Trump's public display of LIES?
The Message is INVISIBLE. 

My reading is that Trump's lies are in your face. 
Trump's LIES are SLAPS in your face. 
They are meant to HIT you in the face. 
They are DIRECT, obviously lies, often disgusting, and relentless.

What is the truth in the lies?The message in the bombardment of lies? The excessiveness of Trump's lies? Are Trump's lies to be perceived as truth or as lies? 

That is the question.

We have always been lied to. From George Washington's I cannot tell a lie I did chop down the cherry tree to this cascade of lies from Trump.

What is the message? Is it still invisible to you?

All of them lie all the time. They always lie and they always did lie. 

Then there are lies that are wearing the MASK of TRUTH.

Is Trump lying directly or is he lying his lies with the MASK of TRUTH covering them?
5 Critical Essays in This Edition That Are Superb-Miller's especially

This is a profound question. Joseph Conrad poses it in 1899 in his Heart of Darkness. Conrad had said, "he wants his readers to THINK!"

Marlowe goes to see Kurtz's Intended at the end of the novel. She is deeply in mourning. 

He tells her Kurtz's last words which she is desperate to hear. 

Does he tell her the awful truth: "THE HORROR! THE HORROR!"
 He does not.

"His last words were.....your name."
"I knew it! I knew it," she says.

Marlowe gives her the lie MASKED by TRUTH. 

The question asked by Trump to the world is:

Do you want the direct lie or do you want the lie MASKED by TRUTH? Do you want the truth? Or do you want the truth wearing the MASK of lie?

So which do you want?
You can avoid choosing by a focus on CONTENT.

CHOMSKY  thinking would read this as surface structure of meaning and deep structure of meaning. The surface content and the INTENT. What is Trump's INTENT?

Is he trying to teach us or distract us?