Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Eric Clarke’s “Visibility at the Limits of Inclusion,” Feb. 26, 2008

This is the forty-first post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is the third of seven posts of material from Professor Kevin Floyd’s Queer Studies seminar at Kent State University. Most of these Recovered Writing posts are from summaries that we wrote during the semester on readings. Most of these were densely theoretical works, but we could not expend more than one page on these summaries–no more and no less–exactly one page. This was an incredibly useful exercise to get to the heart of an argument, study its supporting evidence, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. These summaries encouraged us to take a rigorous approach to understand arguments, express those arguments cogently, and adopt the jargon, terminology, and language utilized by the argument’s writer.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kevin Floyd

Queer Studies

26 Feb. 2008

Summary of Eric Clarke’s “Visibility at the Limits of Inclusion”

Clarke performs a Habermasean argument, meaning an analysis of the influence of capitalism on democracy and the interrelationship between the two systems, to explore the way in which visibility politics reinforces capitalistic modes of value production, which in turn promotes a particular “authenticity” for gay and lesbian identities.

He raises questions about the project of visibility politics, which “has demanded more ‘positive’ lesbian and gay” role models/representations/representatives in the public sphere and in the media (29).  What does ‘positive’ mean?  Who decides what is ‘positive’ and what is ‘negative?’  Clarke argues that the recent trend in commercialization and sponsorship of gay and lesbian events such as the Stonewall 25 celebration introduces the process of capitalistic value production.  Instead of gays and lesbians forming community or group identities on the basis of an egalitarian democratic ideology, the confluence of capitalism and commercialism produces a gay and lesbian demographic that’s targeted as a group to be marketed and sold brand name items in the interest of reiterating a ‘lifestyle’ formed not by that group but by the dynamics of marketing and sales.  What’s really troubling about this development is that this capitalistic ‘lifestyle’ group identity for gays and lesbians comes about through capitalism and not through democratic, individual enfranchisement to make choices about belonging to such a group.  Furthermore, this process is disguised as an operation of democratic ideals, and it’s here that Clarke brings in Habermas and Marx into his discussion of value production invisibly supplanting moral enfranchisement.  That is, there is a heteronormative feature to this that enforces or favors ‘normality’ among gays and lesbians who seek or affirm the post-WWII heteronormative ideal of the nuclear family while excluding what Ellen Degeneres terms, “extremes” (qtd. 34).

Clarke relies on examples such as Ellen Degeneres’ double coming out on the ABC TV show, Ellen to reveal how this confluence of capitalism through publicity serves to promote a normalizing effect to gays and lesbians.  Degeneres (implicitly) along with persons such as Bruce Bawer, Andrew Sullivan, and Gabriel Rotello call for equal rights through what Clarke describes as, “moral conformity as the very precondition for enfranchisement” (41).

Other effects of the process of devaluation of non-normative identities promoted by the influence of capitalistic forces include the marginalization of radical gay and lesbian groups such as ACT UP (as opposed to the major funding of groups like GLAAD), and the publicity/marketing disconnection from “extreme” gay and lesbian identities that don’t fit into the promoted, normalized heteronormative model of gay and lesbian identity (this even extends to ABC turning down the lesbian vacation and cruise company, Olivia Cruises and Resorts, advertisement during the coming out Ellen show).

In the system/process that Clarke describes, social and political value is equated to economic value, and that economic value is established through capitalistic forces and publicity/marketing choices made by corporations.  Enfranchisement of individuals as citizens takes place through market forces rather than the conventionally understood ideal of egalitarian, democratic enfranchisement.  However, it’s important to note that Marx describes how capitalism stripped marriage of particular traditional functions, thereby opening new possibilities, and it has afforded similar possibilities to “modern homoerotic association” (57).

Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Presentation on Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” and Introduction to Bodies That Matter Feb. 6, 2008

This is the fortieth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is the second of seven posts of material from Professor Kevin Floyd’s Queer Studies seminar at Kent State University. Most of these Recovered Writing posts are from summaries that we wrote during the semester on readings. Most of these were densely theoretical works, but we could not expend more than one page on these summaries–no more and no less–exactly one page. This was an incredibly useful exercise to get to the heart of an argument, study its supporting evidence, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. These summaries encouraged us to take a rigorous approach to understand arguments, express those arguments cogently, and adopt the jargon, terminology, and language utilized by the argument’s writer.

In this post, I am including my class presentation (each student led one seminar during the semester) and summary writing.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kevin Floyd

Queer Studies

6 Feb. 2008

Presentation on Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” and “Introduction” to Bodies That Matter

            My presentation today covers Judith Butler’s essays: “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” first presented in 1989 and published in 1991, and the “Introduction” to Bodies That Matter, published in 1993. These two works build on her arguments about the performative production of gender in her larger, 1990 work, Gender Trouble.

In “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” Butler employs the concepts of play/performance, drag, and imitation to describe the formation of gender and sexuality as continually created subjectivities always at risk of dissolution from non-performance. Furthermore, she points out that gender is not something chosen, but rather something deep-seated in the psyche whereby, “the psychic subject is nevertheless constituted internally by differentially gendered Others and is, therefore, never, as a gender, self-identical” (133).

She begins by resisting labels/signifiers such as “lesbian theories, gay theories” as well as “lesbian,” because she is, “permanently troubled by identity categories,” which she understands as, “sites of necessary trouble” (120-121). It’s this “trouble” that interests Butler, and is the impetus of her political project. Butler goes on to explain that she resists a theorization of gay and lesbian identity, because there lacks a shared specificity to such an identity. Even on the common ground of experiencing homophobia, there would be different vocabularies and methods of analysis. She reveals that a lack of specificity, which seems to indicate that lesbianism is derived from heterosexuality or doesn’t exist at all, can be utilized in a deconstructionist argument that posits, “lesbian sexuality can be understood to redeploy its ‘derivativeness’ in the service of displacing hegemonic heterosexual norms” (124).

Butler argues that lesbian identity is both a “being” and “trying to be” at the same time. It’s the repetition of a deep-seated play that constitutes the lesbian “I.” Taking this concept, she links compulsory heterosexuality (i.e., normalized as the hierarchically dominant position) with drag. Drag is an appropriation of gender stylizations and performance, which suggests that gender itself is a stylized imitative performance. Therefore, gender is a simulacra—a copy without an original. This means that heterosexual genders are produced through imitation rather than originating from some natural origin.

She drives her deconstructionist argument home by pointing out that homosexuality is not a copy of heterosexuality. Instead, it’s an imitation, which is more simulation than “carbon copy.” This means that homosexuality is produced, as is heterosexuality, and it inverts the classically implied hierarchical primacy of heterosexuality. Therefore, heterosexuality is a performance that requires repetition at all times in order to maintain stability. Also, gender is a compulsory performance that generates subjectivity. There is no preceding subject that chooses gender and the according performance. Also, heterosexuality is continually at risk because it must be continually performed at all times to maintain itself.

Butler draws on Freud, and Borch-Jacobsen and Leys to develop a way of thinking about the psychic identification involved in gender presentation. The former’s concept of loss, and the latter’s primary mimetism both support the idea that the “psychic subject” is formed by identification with Others of various genders, and not from self-identification. Gender produces the “illusion of an inner sex,” and gender is “always a surface sign,” i.e., marked on/by the body (134). Additionally, the psyche comes about through gender production, and it’s a continuous paradox—compelling gender performance, thereby perpetuating the possibility of gender interruption.

She reconnects this to drag when she writes, “If gender is drag, and if it is an imitation that regularly produces the ideal it attempts to approximate, then gender is a performance that produces the illusion of an inner sex or essence or psychic gender core; it produces on the skin, through the gesture, the move, the gait (that array of corporeal theatrics understood as gender presentation), the illusion of an inner depth” (134). She calls gender a “surface sign” that comes about through the performance of gender, and from that performance there is the production of an “illusion of inner sex”. This “inner sex” or psyche, “is not ‘in’ the body, but in the very signifying process through which that body comes to appear; it is the lapse in repetition as well as its compulsion, precisely what the performance seeks to deny, and that which compels it from the start” (134). However, the psyche does not have a true gender in need of liberation. It is connected to the production of gender through performance by compelling the performance as well perpetuating the chance of interruption of gender.

Having considered the performative production of gender, Butler goes on to add another element to the mix in her “Introduction” to Bodies That Matter. In this selection, she reformulates performativity in terms of the materiality of bodies and the category of “sex.”

Butler initially engages Foucault in the elaboration of her argument. She writes that the category of “sex” is a “regulatory ideal.” This means that it is both a norm and, “a regulatory practice that produces the bodies it governs” (1). It has a productive function that defines bodies, in this case, a heterosexual matrix. Furthermore, body shaping, or the defining of bodies, is an effect of power. She explains that this effect of power is materiality, which, in terms of the category of “sex,” is part of the inextricable connection between the “materiality of the body,” and “the materialization of the [sex] regulatory norm” (2). Additionally, bodily norms, like her earlier formulation of the performativity of gender, are not produced by a subject, but instead the subject is produced by the assumption of a sex and identification. This identification is dependent on the formulation of heterosexual exclusion and abjection of particular identifications outside the heterosexual norm. However, the subject comes about through a rejection of certain identities, which forms “a domain of abjection,” that is actually within the subject as the basis of its identification.

In the next section, Butler challenges the constructionist views of gender production and formation. In her critique of three radical constructivisms, she reveals that, “constructivism is reduced to determinism and implies the evacuation or displacement of human agency” (9). Constructivism relies on a misreading of Foucault, which Butler describes as the personification of power. A significant point she makes about this is that, “There is no power that acts, but only a reiterated acting that is power in its persistence and instability” (9). Reiteration means dynamism over time, which leads to her proposal to replace constructivism. She proposes, “a return to the notion of matter, not as a site or surface, but as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter” (9). Thus, the theorization of gender is expanded to provide a way of theorizing the “matter” of sex (10). Furthermore, she reconfigures construction. She writes, “Construction not only takes place in time, but is itself a temporal process which operates through the reiteration of norms; sex is both produced and destabilized in the course of this reiteration” (10). And, the destabilization leads to, “the possibility to put the consolidation of the norms of ‘sex’ into a potentially productive crisis” (10).

In the final theoretical section of the “Introduction,” Butler develops, “a poststructuralist rewriting of discursive performativity as it operates in the materialization of sex,” as a critique of structuralist-oriented “constructivist accounts of gender” (12). Most of her previous theorization is poststructuralist in that it takes place over time through repetition and reiteration, whereas a structuralist approach considers slices of time and singular acts. Derrida constructed a reformulation of speech acts through the idea of citations. Additionally, she relies on Derrida’s citational reformulation of speech acts. The power of the speech act derives from the act’s citation. This means that speech acts are reiterable by citing the “conventions of authority” (13). Butler extends this to “sex,” by writing, “the norm of sex takes hold to the extent that it is ‘cited’ as such a norm, but it also derives its power through the citations it compels” (13). Next, she aligns “sex” with Lacanian symbolic law so that, “the force and necessity of these norms…is thus functionally dependent on the approximation and citation of the law” (14). Also, she questions, “what would it mean to ‘cite’ the law to produce it differently, to ‘cite’ the law in order to reiterate and coopt its power, to expose the heterosexual matrix and to displace the effect of its necessity” (15)? She calls this process materialization, which is a kind of citationality that produces being by citing power. Furthermore, this means that a subject who resists these norms is actually both enabled and produced by those norms—hence, a reinforcement of Foucault’s theory of power.

Butler’s earlier formulation of the performativity of gender, and her later theory of the materiality of bodies produced by reiterative citation of “sex” norms, raises a number of questions.

First, to what extent do you accept Butler’s overarching reformulation of performativity? Is her earlier theory about gender performativity easier to accept than the citational formation of bodies?

Second, Butler briefly touches on the human subject and less-than-human non-subject divide in the heterosexual matrix in the “Introduction.” When it’s known that biological sex is varied and not always binary (e.g., the thirteen sexes of slime mold described in Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson, or the medicalized “anomalies” of Klinefelter’s Syndrome, Ulrich-Turner Syndrome, and others that refute a chromosomal definition of human sex), what are your thoughts about removing the physical construction of sex from a formulation of bodies with a “sex?” Is this compelling or troubling?

And finally, Butler, following Foucault, talks about bodies on a local level. Is there a way to reconcile Butler and Foucault with Sedgwick regarding community? Does community come about in what Butler calls the “outside” (i.e., on the excluded borders of the heterosexual matrix), and if so, how might that alliance work in terms of the production of “sexed” bodies?

 

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. “Imitation and Gender Insubordination.” The Judith Butler Reader. Eds. Sara Salih and Judith Butler. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 119-137.

—. “Introduction.” Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge, 1993. 1-23.

——————————–

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kevin Floyd

Queer Studies

6 Feb. 2008

Queer Studies, Summary of Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”

            “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” is an expansion of some of Butler’s ideas in her previous, larger work, Gender Trouble.  In this essay, she employs the concepts of play/performance, drag, and imitation to describe the formation of gender and sexuality as continually created subjectivities always at risk of dissolution from non-performance.  Furthermore, she points out that gender is not something chosen, but rather something deep-seated in the psyche whereby, “the psychic subject is nevertheless constituted internally by differentially gendered Others and is, therefore, never, as a gender, self-identical” (133).

She begins by resisting labels/signifiers such as “lesbian theories, gay theories” as well as “lesbian,” because she is, “permanently troubled by identity categories,” which she understands as, “sites of necessary trouble” (120-121).  It’s this “trouble” that interests Butler, and is the origin of her political project.  Butler goes on to explain that she resists a theorization of gay and lesbian identity, because there lacks a shared specificity to such an identity.  Even on the common ground of experiencing homophobia, there would be different vocabularies and methods of analysis.  She reveals that a lack of specificity, which seems to indicate that lesbianism is derived from heterosexuality or doesn’t exist at all, can be utilized in a deconstructionist argument that posits, “lesbian sexuality can be understood to redeploy its ‘derivativeness’ in the service of displacing hegemonic heterosexual norms” (124).

Butler argues that lesbian identity is both a “being” and “trying to be” at the same time.  It’s the repetition of a deep-seated play that constitutes the lesbian “I.”  Taking this concept, she links compulsory heterosexuality (i.e., normalized as the hierarchically dominant position) with drag.  Drag is an appropriation of gender stylizations and performance, which suggests that gender itself is a stylized imitative performance.  Therefore, gender is a simulacra—a copy without an original.  This means that heterosexual genders are produced through imitation rather than originating from some natural origin.

She drives her deconstructionist argument home by pointing out that homosexuality is not a copy of heterosexuality.  Instead, it’s an imitation, which is more simulation than “carbon copy.”  This means that homosexuality is produced, as is heterosexuality, and it inverts the classically implied hierarchical primacy of heterosexuality.  Therefore, heterosexuality is a performance that requires repetition at all times in order to maintain stability.  Also, gender is a compulsory performance that generates subjectivity.  There is no preceding subject that chooses gender and the according performance.  Also, heterosexuality is continually at risk because it must be continually performed at all times to maintain itself.

Butler draws on Freud, and Borch-Jacobsen and Leys to develop a way of thinking about the psychic identification involved in gender presentation.  The former’s concept of loss, and the latter’s primary mimetism both support the idea that the “psychic subject” is formed by identification with Others of various genders, and not from self-identification.  Gender produces the “illusion of an inner sex,” and gender is “always a surface sign,” i.e., marked on/by the body (134).  Additionally, the psyche is not within the body, but is a continuous paradox—compelling gender performance, thereby perpetuating the possibility of gender interruption.

 

 

Recovered Writing, PhD in English, Queer Studies, Summary of Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Parts 3 and 4, January 29, 2008

This is the thirty-ninth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is the first of seven posts of material from Professor Kevin Floyd’s Queer Studies seminar at Kent State University. Most of these Recovered Writing posts are from summaries that we wrote during the semester on readings. Most of these were densely theoretical works, but we could not expend more than one page on these summaries–no more and no less–exactly one page. While these assignments were incredibly difficult, they were equally useful to get to the heart of an argument, study its supporting evidence, and identify its strengths and weaknesses. These summaries encouraged us to take a rigorous approach to understand arguments, express those arguments cogently, and adopt the jargon, terminology, and language utilized by the argument’s writer.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kevin Floyd

Queer Studies

29 January 2008

Summary of Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Parts 3 and 4

Foucault argues in Part Three that Western civilization has developed a “scientia sexualis,” which has replaced “ars erotica” through a series of transpositions and developments. Part Four, arguably the most important section of the text, is Foucault’s theoretical framework describing the knowledge-power dynamic, which he describes both generally as well as applicably to sex and sexuality.

In Part Three, Foucault traces the difference between ars erotica and scientia sexualis as the, “two great procedures for producing the truth of sex” (57). Ars erotica is experiential, sensual, and derived from pleasure. On the other hand, scientia sexualis arrives (originally) in Western civilization via the confession. Over time, the confession has shifted from a religious exercise in penance (sin and religion) to a method of obtaining data about our individuated sexual experiences (bodies and biological processes). In the modern usage of the confession, the confessional data is either given freely or through coercion, and it’s interpreted by a professional thereby telling the teller about his or herself. Additionally, the confession and its use to construct “truth” is linked with networks of power. The discourse of truth in relation to sex culminated in the nineteenth century when that discourse shifted to that of science and the development of “a confessional science,” i.e., psychology (64). This came about in five ways including: the confession framed as observations, influence within and without bodies by sexuality, sex is a hidden truth in need of revelation, questioner validates confession through interpretation, and the medicalization of the confession as a method of therapy. By adopting the scientia sexualis, the discourses on sex now allow for the term “sexuality” to encapsulate sex as being and experience. However, Foucault points out that the categorization of sex and its many aspects into sexuality is negative as well as positive.

Part four proceeds with Foucault defining his objective as developing an “analytics” of power rather than a “theory” of power. He wants to study the relations of power in a specific area and establish a means for analyzing those relations and how they come about. He’s reacting to the historically accepted juridico-discursive representation of power, which contains the following properties: all connections between power and sex are negative, power enforces its law on sex, power prohibits certain aspects of sex, there’s a logic to censorship enforced by power, and power is enforced homogeneously on all levels. This is a power of “no.” Foucault conceives power to be much more complex and more promising than this outdated view of power. In his analytics, he removes power from institutions, and disperses it as a diffuse network of nodes of discourse. Power comes from the interaction and butting up against points of connection within the knowledge-power network. He significantly writes, “Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere” (93). Power forms a network that we’re all part of, and there is no outside from which power comes. It comes from within, and we exist within the networks from which power is formed. He goes on to clarify that power is diffuse, it comes from within and between, it runs through the social body, it’s not organized by one person or institution, and resistance exists wherever there is power. Returning to the history of sexuality, he applies these observations to sex, which forms these rules: power-knowledge has no exteriority, sex is made an object by power relations, power-knowledge is dynamic, tactics of power support an overall theme, but these tactics are not necessarily representative or mirrors of the larger strategy, and there are a multiplicity of discourses, and those discourses produce and undermine power. Sexuality is a nexus of power relations.

 

How to Build a Sparring Lightsaber with Parts from Home Depot and Spare Parts (with thoughts on learning and haptics)

Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

My cousin Ryan Cox is a longtime practitioner of a variety of martial arts including kung fu and tai chi. Ryan and his two older brothers–Ian and Jarret–grew up learning, sparring, and developing uncanny skill in hand-to-hand combat and weapons sparring. While Ryan and his brothers have developed rhizomic networks to enhance their abilities and pass on what they have learned to others, Ryan has went the most far afield when he traveled to Wudang Mountain to train with the kung fu monks who reside there.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

When we were younger, I remember myself being the one drawn to the Star Wars mythos more than anyone else in my family, but now Ryan tells me that he was always interested in the Jedi, their mystique, and their lightsabers. In more recent years, he has learned a lot of the backstory of the Star Wars universe from books and video games. His knowledge in those realms far outstrips my own.

So, I was intrigued when he began talking with me about building his own lightsaber for demonstrating his swordmanship and possibly sparring if the “blade” were strong enough to withstand strikes. The guide that follows illustrates the first lightsaber that I built for Ryan in the fashion of General Rahm Kota’s. I used off-the-shelf parts easily obtained at Home Depot or any hardware store. Since I built this lightsaber, Ryan has modified it more, and I have built two lightsabers for myself–one that resembles Luke Skywalker’s Return of the Jedi lightsaber and one that resembles Darth Maul’s The Phantom Menace double bladed lightsaber. This guide focuses on Ryan’s “Mark I” lightsaber.

Pedagogically, I promote the idea that haptics, building, and making are integral parts to any kind of education. We are embodied beings who do things physically in the world–whether it be in real life or online. I enjoy building things in my own time as another way to think about things–in this case, Star Wars, science fiction, Jedi mythos, world building, canon vs. noncanon, and design considerations: rhetoric of technology, aesthetics, practicality, etc. In Ryan’s case, haptics, proprioception, and movement are integral to his learning and lived experience. I am looking forward to learning from him with this artifact that I designed and built. The modes are the same–physicality, materiality, and haptics–but our efforts converge from different directions for a kind of haptic, learning synergy.

I began the project by assembling the parts that I needed for creating the lightsaber’s hilt and belt clip. I carried an image of Rahm Kota’s lightsaber on my iPhone and went to the plumbing aisle of my local Home Depot.

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These parts included:

  • 6″ x 3/4″ galvanized steel pipe
  • 3/4″ coupling
  • Two 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling (one for display and one for sparring with permanently installed “blade”–these two couplings are interchangeable)
  • “Close” 3/4″ pipe (approximately 1 1/2″ long)
  • 3/4″ cap
  • D-ring
  • Carabiner
  • Hose clamps

Roughly, these parts are assembled to create the lightsaber:

lightsaber-DSC01973

Other parts that I used for this build include:

  • 1/4″ white nylon rope (grip wrap)
  • 36″ x 1/2″ oak dowel rod (scrapped due to paint problem)
  • 48″ x 1/2″ paint brush rod (cut to 36″ and replaced the oak dowel rod)
  • Doorbell button assembly (for parts)
  • 80mm computer case fan (for electromagnet assembly)
  • JB Weld
  • Rustoleum Florescent Yellow Paint

To create the lightsaber’s handle, I screwed all of the handle components together except for the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling like this: 3/4″ cap | 6″ x 3/4″ pipe | 3/4″ to 3/4″ coupling | 3/4″ close pipe.

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Then, I prepared the nylon rope to create the grip on the two pipe sections (6″ pipe and close pipe) by burning frayed ends to melt the nylon.

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Beginning at the business-end of the lightsaber, I tucked a small piece of rope under the first wrap against the 3/4″ coupling to hold the rope in place and prevent unraveling.

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At the top end, close to where the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling (or lightsaber emitter/business end), I created a loop with the rope under the last wrap, which I ran the last wrap through and pulled into the wrap, which hid the end of the rope under the wrap.

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I cut the loose ends.
lightsaber-DSC02023Beginning on the other side of the 3/4″ coupling, I repeated these steps with the longer wrap of the 6″ pipe section. First, a small piece under the first wrap.

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I pulled the rope tight around the pipe and pushed each wrap down to keep the grip as tight as possible.lightsaber-DSC02041

Mose tried to help with the process as much as possible.lightsaber-DSC02043

At the end of the 6″ long pipe, close to where the end cap goes, I placed the D-Ring and ran the rope through its eye to connect it to the handle.

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As in the shorter section wrap, I created a loop and pulled the end of the rope through and under the last lines of wrap to hide the end and prevent the grip from unraveling.

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Finally, I installed the cap. Before doing this, I wrapped the grip higher than necessary so that the the cap would compress the wrap when tightly screwed onto the 6″ pipe.lightsaber-DSC02052

Since Ryan would likely bang his lightsaber when sparring, I wanted to make it as practical as possible while giving it a technological appearance. First, I tried attaching a circuit board from an average doorbell button with two hose clamps.

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While I thought this fit the rugged look that Ryan might like for his lightsaber, I thought that it would be more practical to use only one hose clamp and affix the doorbell components with JB Weld after removing them from the circuit board.

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I liked this configuration best. The hose clamp protects the switch, lights (non-functional), and resistor.

Next, I wanted the display emitter on the deactivated lightsaber (3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling) to look “realistic,” so I pulled the electromagnet from an 80″ computer fan, crushed it with my channelocks, and inserted it into the 3/4″ end of the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling. Repurposing the electromagnet draws on a visual/physical rhetoric of technology in the same way that movie props and set design use this for world building, extrapolating, and establishing plausibility.

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The next phase of the lightsaber build involved the other sparring emitter. I needed to rigidly attach a wooden blade to the second 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling in the 1/2″ end of the coupling and paint it to match the yellow blade color that Ryan sought (signifying the Consular Jedi).

I began by taking an oak dowel rod and whittling one end enough to screw it into the 1/2″ end of the 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling.

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Then, I used JB Weld to permanently connect the coupling to the dowel rod.

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I had to make sure that I did not put too much JB Weld on the tip closest to the 3/4″ pipe thread, which screw into the “close” end of the lightsaber when the blade needs to be drawn.lightsaber-DSC01989

I made sure that it was centered and straight.
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Finally, I painted the dowel rod above the coupling with a primer and then with the florescent yellow.

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Unfortunately, I misread the spray paint cans and ended up with a mess when the florescent yellow would not stick to the dried primer (I mistakenly picked up white primer + paint instead of simply primer).

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Luckily, I had a paint brush handle in the garage that was long enough to serve the same purpose even if it might be made out of pine instead of oak.

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I cut the paint brush handle down to 36″.

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Set it up for painting with the remaining florescent yellow paint.

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Many coats later, it was a bright yellow befitting a Consular Jedi!

After the paint dried, I screwed the metal end of the brush into another 3/4″ to 1/2″ coupling and bonded the blade to the coupling with JB Weld.

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After everything had dried, I mated the blade with the lightsaber handle.

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I was happy with the outcome of the lightsaber in deactivated mode, too.

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I gave the lightsaber to Ryan as a birthday present. I included this explanatory diagram that explains how the saber is more than simply parts (e.g., the rope is from the same bundle that Ryan and I used when we cut trees down in my yard last year).lightsaber-DSC02085

Since I build this lightsaber, Ryan removed the nylon rope grip and improved it with three layers of bank line or tarred twine. The result is quite impressive aesthetically and practically!

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Cox.

I will post future posts on the lightsabers that I have built for myself and examples of our sparring (when we have the time for Ryan to teach me some things).

 

Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Independent Study with Mack Hassler, Literary Characters, Online Persona, and Science Fiction Scholars: A Polemic, Dec. 9, 2008

This is the thirty-eighth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In 2008, I began my Ph.D. work with Dr. Donald “Mack” Hassler. Ultimately, he directed my dissertation and we became friends.

On the advice of friends in the SFRA and of having read Mack’s first Political Science Fiction collection while at the University of Liverpool, I wanted the opportunity to study at Kent State University and work with him.

This is the third and final artifact that I produced during my coursework independent study with Mack focused on Philip K. Dick, postmodernism, play, parody, and performance. As an invested SFRA member and its then-publicity director, I was concerned about the chilling effects a troll and his sock-puppets wreaked on our email list at that time. Ultimately, Mack helped me steer the independent study in that direction to theoretically grapple with online discussions in real life (RL).

Jason W. Ellis

Dr. Donald M. Hassler

Independent Study

9 December 2008

Literary Characters, Online Persona, and Science Fiction Scholars:  A Polemic

Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.

–Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1918)

This essay’s objects of study include the community of Science Fiction (SF) scholars, of which I am a member, as well as our practices of online communication and discussion.  In September 2008, the normal intermittent conversation on the email list of a long established, professional organization of SF scholars was disrupted, or derailed, which might be a better description, by the controversial, inflammatory, or perhaps unexpected emails of two list participants with different originating email address–one a dues paying member of the organization, and the other a non-paying email-only list member.  However, these two seemingly separate persons are in fact two online personas or characters created and operated by the same individual.  The real world person responsible for these personas is clearly playing with character and online identity engineering.  For the two personas, he constructs identity and narrative of self through verbal wit and word play that has its antecedents in literature, or what I call Pulp Media. This online, or New Media, practitioner of online persona engineering largely caught the SF scholar community woefully unprepared to meet his persona on the page, or rather on the screen. Instead of engaging the personas within cyberspace on the email discussion list, which often carries conversations about marginalized identities and the alien Other, many list participants chose to react against the list personas. Why did these scholars, arguably some of the most engaged persons dealing with issues of Otherness, attempt to expel, rather than embrace, the Othered personas?  Can SF scholarship overcome a privileging of literary texts, and expand their work to the realm of daily practices and the real world of science fictional technologies (i.e., the Internet) that facilitates their professional work?  Or, is SF scholarship divorced from the present through its overemphasis on the future or alternate worlds imagined in its traditional objects of study?

I approach these questions first through a discussion of literary character and persona.  Then, I employ psychology as a bridge between literary character and online identity or persona. In this paper, I argue that character in Pulp Media is replicated in New Media with the recognizable exception being the proliferation of persona narrative construction online, which results in the necessity of reflective revision of our practices in cyberspace, including our supposedly isolated forums of discussion.

The online personas on the SF email list are indicative of the doubleness of character in literature.  Obviously, writing the self and creating doubles of character in literature have a long history in literature.  The touchstone work is Saint Augustine’s Confessions (397-398 AD), in which he attempted to reflect on his life, memory, and self.  However, he realized that memory and self change over time and his record of self in the Confessions can be best thought of as a representation of self as recorded through the lens of memory.  Other forms of doubleness take on a more fictional aspect such as that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and her characters: Victor the creator, and his created Monster.  However, the Monster also doubles humanity, because he falls in love, or desires companionship of a female mate.  Even though he is called the Monster, he is in fact very much human–one that is isolated, alone, and ostracized as the Other.  A more emphatic and explicit form of doubling takes place in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).  The title’s namesakes equate to one person with a schizoid personality–a person split into different, and even competing identities. Though, as different as Hyde is from Jekyll, there still remains the underlying core of humanity and human identification. Still much later works, such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), continue to feature doubled characters.  In this case, the Replicants, android workers of the future, double humanity, and it is the ambiguously human characters who doubt their own humanity and fear the possibility of being the Other.  In these examples, there is a crisis of identity, because the division of self obviously destabilizes what is assumed to be a unified identity or sense of self.

These crises exist in written form as literature and as words written by persons, each with a unique mind, and literature forms a corpus of evidence for the mind and its machinery.  Therefore, the early developments in the scientific study of self and identity came to rely on this evidence.  Sigmund Freud relied on classical literature (e.g., Oedipus Rex), and his love of British literature (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet) to develop his theories of self and pathologies of mental illness.  The significance here being that there is an interconnection between Freud’s work on the mind and the pathology of mind, and literature. Freud’s theory of self established that our mind, and its underlying workings, is divided between the surface conscious mind–ego, and the subsurface unconscious mind–the superego and the id. Despite this division of mind, normal persons supposedly present an integrated sense of self or identity to the world. Further developments in the pathology of a unified public self was made by Eugen Bleuler, who extends Freud’s work with his categorization and naming of the schizophrenias, which included the now distinct pathology known as dissociative identity disorder, or the explicit division of self into distinct personas.  Following this work, violations of the unity of self in daily life are perceived to be indicative of disease or illness, and necessitating treatment or institutionalization. However, this phenomenon is presented in literature both before and after Freud and Bleuler’s work. Doubleness of character, doppelgangers, and literary personas in literature are high literary markers, and there is a profusion of such literary/psychological devices in literature following the wider popularization of psychoanalysis.  I do not mean to say that one necessarily follows from the other, but instead, there is an ever presence of human minds creating literature, which obviously leaves psychological traces embedded in the work. However, there must be a conscious as well as unconscious injection of these themes into literary works, particularly following the increase in awareness of mental disorders and key psychological concepts.  With that being said, doubleness pervades literature, and there is a recursive operation at play following the dispersal of the Freudian theory of mind.

This pervasion is clearly evident in the doubleness inherent to the New Media, which derives in part from its literary and pathological precedents, but it also has to do with the material conditions of plugging one’s self into the network.  William Gibson, hovering over his Hermes 2000 typewriter, envisioned the physical jacking into cyberspace, a neologism of his creation that has since stuck, in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. There is a separation between the meat (i.e., body) and mind.  The meat confines the potential of self unleashed within the “consensual hallucination” within the computer network.  This is made more visually real a decade and a half later in the Wachowski Brother’s film, The Matrix (1999), when the human characters jack-in to the computer world they leave their weak bodies behind in Baudrillard’s “desert of the real,” and become the Übermensch within cyberspace.  The characters, including Case in Neuromancer, Neo in the Matrix, and Hiro Protagonist in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992), each invent spectacular online identities with special powers and abilities that contrast, more or less, with the material reality of their bodily identity.  Is this not true of many persons of imagination that enjoy SF, comics, and video games as a way to leave, or at least ignore, the confines of material reality and explore the potential and promise of the undiscovered country of the imagination with their doubled selves?

One such imaginative space, perhaps with the most potential for invention, is the Internet and its New Media technologies.  New Media has made possible a proliferation in the engineering of self and creation of persona–a doubling that occurs purposefully as well as incidentally.  Playing with character was largely confined to print, and it was not allowed in real life due to the pathology of a split identity.  The New Media proliferation of self and character experimentation has resulted in new possibilities as well as problems.  The possibilities include trying out new attitudes and beliefs in the relative protection of cyberspace, which is one of the themes of Greg Egan’s novel Diaspora (1998), albeit with digital beings that switch mental perspectives, which we might conceive as being central to identity. Another New Media possibility is the making connections and linking into new circuits and communities within the sprawling network.  This empowers the building of self through community and interaction that might otherwise be a challenge (e.g., geographically or demographically), or danger (e.g., a transgendered person talking with other transgendered persons in a community with groups openly violent to such persons).  Additionally, some persons create multiple online identities or characters as protection or to remove prejudice within online communities (e.g., a girl pretends to be a guy to avoid harassment, or a college-aged woman uses only her first initial and last name on email correspondence to avoid gender bias).  In contrast to these possibilities is the central problem and holdover from the real world–the assumption of a unified sense of self.  Even within cyberspace where doubling is essential to any interaction with the network, there remains the awareness of illness when there is a violation by others of an appearance of unity of self. There may be a sense of betrayal when the ruse, if you want to use that word, is uncovered. Other ways of responding to such a situation of online persona creation is deception.  There is the assumption of dealing with an individual behind the online persona or avatar, and that this is a one-to-one ratio. When one person has a chorus of voices, characters, or personas, this may lead to the feeling that there is deception–that one is hoodwinked.  However, the fact remains that New Media enables and in some cases, such as Blizzard’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, encourages such multiple persona creation.  The technological assemblages of the Internet and New Media is built on multiplicity, copy-and-paste, and the passage of bits unencumbered by the realities of the persons corresponding with those bits of data. Nevertheless, there still exists for many the knee-jerk reaction of our real world conditioning that a violation takes place when the assumption of unified identity is breached, even in such an environment as cyberspace.

The reaction of many of the participants, myself included, on the SF scholar email list strongly indicates that old habits die hard. Evidence for this comes from the fact that list participants overwhelmingly reacted against these Othered personas rather than engaging the play and internal logic of the two characters. There were exceptions, but it would probably have required a unanimous positive response to avert the ensuing chaos on the list.  Some of the not-so-positive responses to the personas, but more so the person behind the personas after the performance was uncovered, included calling him a “worthless clown” and “troll,” who pursues “juvenile antics.”  However, the following responses are more indicative of the interrelation of psychology to persons:  “kook,” “disturbed little creature,” “needs psychological help,” “loonie,” and “he is clearly undergoing some sort of emotional meltdown.” The online persona creator is no longer a human, but a “creature,” suffering an “emotional meltdown,” and “in need of help.”  Psychology, the science of self that originally derived its models from literature, comes full circle when brought to bear on an individual who exercises literary practices of character and persona creation in a New Media email list.  However, these same scholars whose slings and arrows amount to popular expressions of Freud would not consider Shelley or Dick “kooks.” Also, their scholarly engagement of Shelley and Dick’s characters and literary personas would be probative and deductive rather than invective.  It would be an embrace rather than a reaction or rejection of these practices of character and persona creation.

In this spirit of embracing the Other, one list participant offered, “There may be ‘irrational exuberance’ but exuberance can be used productively.” Another sage called the emails “great fun” and a kind of “cyberhockey” with words flying around like so many pucks. Perhaps the person behind the email list personas took the postmodern to heart, and not in his studies but in his practices as an academic.  I contend that these personas are forms of “transgressive parody,” or what Patrick Novotny describes as:

Parody in the postmodernist aesthetic is the transgression of aesthetic and representational norms. The postmodernist parody of aesthetic representation has been frequently carried to an extreme of self-negation, the playful celebration of the fragmentation and decomposition of the subject. With the collapse of the modern aesthetic tradition and the “implosion of metanarratives,” postmodernist discourse transgresses and disrupts the received assurances of traditional aesthetic forms and problematizes the boundaries and limits of representation. (100)

Novotny’s work reveals that postmodern parody is much more than comic imitation.  Instead, the email list online personas transgress the norms of the list and academic discourse in order to challenge and potentially break down the metanarratives of SF scholarship in order to arrive at something new. In a sense, the chaos incited by the email personas, as Henry Adams wrote in a different context, “often breeds life” (249).  It seems evident that the person behind the personas self-negates through the creation of such elaborate online identities, but perhaps a recursion takes place in which the self-negated subject of the personas’ operator then in turn takes on these new and engineered identities.  The ways in which the personas disrupted the email list and the normal list conversations sent ripples through the list community.  I cannot peer into the mind of the personas’ operator and see his intentions for his acts of transgressive parody, but it is obvious from the list conversations and this paper, as something created as a result of the events on the email list, that the email list personas’ transgressions and disruptions have resulted in a change of course into uncharted territories.

In our first trespass into these new areas, we should collectively reflect on what it is we do as SF scholars supposedly concerned about the plight of the alien Other.  The email list personas came from within our own member ranks, but the unexpectedness of the transgressive parody, something assumed to be relegated to the realm of literature, took center stage while many list members gawked at the intrusions from the (assumed) margins.  In this spectacular example, the persona creator, who pushes the boundaries and possibilities of New Media and community norms, is the outsider on the SF discussion list, because he is using New Media technologies in ways that many list members are unaccustomed to, or unwilling to acknowledge as constructive or at least inventive. We each write our identities online in a variety of ways, which are not far removed, and in fact overlap each of our email list personas.  Some of these include:  our professional websites display our professional histories and curriculum vitae; we post copious amounts of data on identity profiles on Facebook and MySpace; we blog about our personal and professional lives; we use Twitter and email to communicate and bounce ideas off one another; and we join virtual guilds and fight for honor in World of Warcraft.  The examples are too long to be fully listed here, but it is obvious that we construct identities online whether we intend to or not.  The mere act of communication builds some sense of identity in our own minds through our action to communicate and in the minds of our audience by what we have said.  Cyberspace and the New Media facilitate the writing of ourselves–in whatever way that we may choose to do so–and the creation of persona or personas in the digital domain. We must resist our assumptions, including the outmoded sense of a unified self, and make our best effort to connect with new technologies and the possibilities that they engender, especially when they are so interrelated with our own practices and SF objects of study. It is time for us to agree to bridge our professional practices to the seemingly far shore of our daily practices as human beings.

 

Works Cited

Adams, Henry.  The Education of Henry Adams:  An Autobiography. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1918.

Novotny, Patrick.  “No Future! Cyberpunk, Industrial Music, and the Aesthetics of Postmodern Disintegration.”  Political Science Fiction.  Eds. Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox.  Columbia, SC:  University of South Carolina Press, 1997.  99-123.

Support Files for My Module of DevLab Social Media Pedagogy and Assignments Workshop

Twitter_logo_blueAs part of DevLab’s 2014 Workshop Series at Georgia Tech, Valerie Johnson and I will be leading a discussion today about the use of social media strategically as a part of our pedagogy and tactically in our assignments. We encourage Britts to share their approaches to social media use during the workshop, raise questions about the use of social media pedagogically, and brainstorm new approaches for social media use in the classroom (repurposing, developing literacy, collaboration, asynchronous discussion, participation options, etc.). I am including my workshop notes and files below.

Notes

  • I use Twitter in the classroom for collecting thoughts before discussion, reflecting on reading before writing formal summaries, encouraging discussion/backchannel between students, and demonstrating ways of turning social media to our own purposes (collecting individual thoughts/dataset, professional discussion, and transforming/translating compositions from one media form to another).
  • Discuss WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and nonverbal) potential for social media platforms including Twitter.
  • William Gibson, “the street finds its own uses for things,” from “Burning Chrome” in Omni, July 1982.
    • Repurpose social media for our needs, purposes, and use.
    • Use social media to collect data, build a data set, and cite data in future self-focused research projects.
  • Develop digital literacy–understand how the technology works, use the technology in different ways, see models of different uses of the technology, and critique how others use the technology.
  • Audience awareness–public facing, multiple audiences, and unintended audiences.
  • Ephemerality and permanence.
  • Examine how the medium effects/shapes/is the message. Mention Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media and “the medium is the message.”
    • Transform compositions from one medium to another, share these transformations with peers to observe reception, and discuss how the message might change, lead to misunderstandings, or be more effective (e.g., Twitter > Storify > poster > essay).
    • Explore how we can use rhetoric to maximize each medium’s possibilities to persuasively communicate our message to audiences.
  • Bridging discussion across sections of the same course–especially for students on-campus and off-campus (Summer Online Undergraduate Program–see LMC3214 syllabus below).

Files

Recovered Writing: PhD in English, Independent Study with Mack Hassler, David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick, and Transgressive Parody, Sept. 28, 2008

This is the thirty-seventh post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In 2008, I began my Ph.D. work with Dr. Donald “Mack” Hassler. Ultimately, he directed my dissertation and we became friends.

On the advice of friends in the SFRA and of having read Mack’s first Political Science Fiction collection while at the University of Liverpool, I wanted the opportunity to study at Kent State University and work with him.

This is the second of three artifacts that I produced during my coursework independent study with Mack focused on Philip K. Dick, postmodernism, play, parody, and performance. As an invested SFRA member and its then-publicity director, I was concerned about the chilling effects a troll and his sock-puppets wreaked on our email list at that time. Ultimately, Mack helped me steer the independent study in that direction to theoretically grapple with online discussions in real life (RL).

Jason W. Ellis

Dr. Donald M. Hassler

Independent Study

28 September 2008

David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick, and Transgressive Parody

Mack Hassler set with an interesting task this week after the unfortunate death of David Foster Wallace.  Mack asked me to consider two questions:

1) Is PKD like Wallace in respect to the concept of “transgressive parody,” which Patrick Novotny defines in his chapter to Hassler and Wilcox’s Political Science Fiction titled, “No Future!  Cyberpunk, Industrial Music, and the Aesthetics of Postmodern Disintegration,” as, “Parody in the postmodernist aesthetic is the transgression of aesthetic and representational norms” (100).

2) How does PKD move beyond parody?

In response to the first query, Philip K. Dick operates in a similar fashion to David Foster Wallace in terms of transgressive parody.  Both authors use their medium of choice, SF for Dick and the non-fiction essay for Wallace (unfortunately, I have not yet read his fiction including Infinite Jest), as the means for their transgressive parody.  Dick parodies the streamlined and perfect futures of Clarke and Asimov through the introduction of kibble, entropy, and the disintegration of reality–a theme that Novotny elaborates in his study of cyberpunk and postmodernism, and Dick obviously is a predecessor of the cyberpunk authors and enjoyed the potential of postmodern play.  On the other hand, Wallace apes the professional essay format and bends it to his own ends through the use of play (there’s that word again), such as through his hyper-footnoting (the best parts of many of his essays are in the footnotes, and his footnotes have footnotes), and his employment of catechresis, or taking the story or argument from one context and applying it elsewhere–much in the vein of Derrida.  Dick and Wallace parody the norms of the writing that they are doing, but they transgress those norms for their own ends rather than making a comic attack on the parodied norms.  The way to think about it is that they take the postmodern sensibility of “whatever” to heart.  They appropriate the norms of the fields in which they work and reshape them, not to make a direct satire of what’s come before, rather to create something new of their own design for their own creative endeavors.  Dick brings the entropic breakdown of the real world and the inner, psychic world to SF, which had largely ignored that important aspect of reality.  Wallace brings a truly reflective mind and sensibility of open curiosity to apparently mundane and boring writing assignments–he grasps those boring moments as a place to begin thinking about more important matters that are, on the surface, only tangentially connected.

PKD moves beyond parody by using his works as a means of exploration of issues of self, identity, and subjectivity in an increasingly complex world.  On the surface, many of his works parody the cornerstones of the post-pulp era of SF.  For example, Ubik parodies aspects of SF such as space opera, but it does so only on the surface.  This isn’t Dick’s real target.  Instead, he uses the novel as a means to critique the nature of reality and the forces of entropy–two issues largely disregarded in SF until the New Wave.  Another example would be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  In that novel, Dick parts ways with Asimov and gives his androids a real soul and a sense of self-preservation.  However, he isn’t parodying Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw, but instead, he’s appropriating an element of the SF mega-text for his own purposes, which is to work through his own questions about reality, soul, and memory.