Humanity’s Attempt to Remove Itself from Ideology

The concept of subjects’ refusal to take self-accountability for their actions and how it impacts everything within an ideological state apparatus.

Ari Lentini

This is a 21 page term paper that I wrote for my Critical Theory course. Obviously, I cannot copy and paste it all into a blog post so I am including the PDF below if you are interested in reading it.

Madeleine Hanna and Jackie Stacey’s Discourses on Feminism

After reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and reading the Gender and Sexuality section of our textbook, I feel as though Jackie Stacey’s arguments on escapism, identification, and consumption play an important role in Madeleine’s life. While Stacey argues on how these factors play an important role in why women go to the cinema, I also feel as though these factors can be seen through Madeleine, a graduate who majored in English. There were a few key events that stuck out to me while reading that seemed to correspond with these ideas.

One of the discourses Stacey claims to be a huge factor is escapism. Escapism, in The Marriage Plot, can be seen in a few ways by watching Madeleine. As an example, we can see how Madeleine uses Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse as a way of escapism. In one section of the book, she uses it as a way to escape her feelings about Leonard, yet the book forces her to face those feelings instead despite her trying to do the opposite. If we look on page 49, we can see how the scene is set with her trying to enjoy a typical college student’s night in by reading yet finds “a sign that she wasn’t alone” (Eugenides 49) within her book. She, after reading, realizes that what she had read “had to do with Leonard” (Eugenides 49), which defeats the purpose of her trying to escape her own thoughts.

However, escapism is also shown through her own relationship with Leonard. Madeleine hadn’t been as excited as her peers to graduate since her breakup with Leonard. Once she finds out from Auerbach about Leonard being in the hospital for his mental health, she uses Leonard as a way to escape her own graduation. One could argue that it was because she cares for Leonard and misses him, which is true. However, taking into account that she wasn’t thrilled to be around her parents and Mitchell also struck some chords with her earlier, one can see why she would take Leonard’s hospitalization as a way to escape her own graduation. Madeleine also uses Leonard in another way to escape.

Rather than just simply using him to escape her own graduation, Madeleine used Leonard to escape the reality of her life: she was a college graduate who was denied access to the Yale Graduate Program in English and didn’t have a job. To be specific, “neither of them had a job” (Eugenides 170), which left Madeleine to nurse Leonard back to health and escape the realities of her life even further. By Madeleine nursing him back to his former self, Madeleine shows the second discourse of Stacey’s theory, which is identification.

According to Stacey, identification can occur when women “become complicit in their own oppression” (Storey 156). Madeleine, as a woman, went and got herself a higher education and even a college degree yet is being a doting housewife for her boyfriend Leonard. While staying at his place, Madeleine gets to a point where she is “unable to bear with the filth any longer” (Eugenides 167) and cleans his entire place and even puts up new curtains and sheets. She’s even allowed to water his ficus tree which, earlier, Leonard had put up a fight about. Madeleine conforming to what is the typical doting housewife shows the idea of identification has developed in her, since she seems content with the standard “womanly duties” of taking care of the house and “having her big Saint Bernard all to herself” (Eugenides 170).

The last discourse Stacey mentions is consumption, which analyzes exactly what the modern woman takes in and how that affects her through a feminist perspective. Throughout the novel, we see Madeleine describe what type of man she refuses to date. For example, “Madeleine made a point of going out only with guys who liked their parents” (Eugenides 52) and how she doesn’t date guys who have any sort of mental illness. Madeleine also mentions how “guys weren’t supposed to be the talkers” (Eugenides 63) which really made me as a reader realized how accustomed she had gotten to what her expectations for men were. She seemed so hesitant in the beginning because of this; because her only consumption with men had been the complete opposite of Leonard. By breaking that “Hannesque” consumption of partners, I find that Madeleine had taken her first steps into becoming who she truly was outside of her parents’ expectations and society’s expectations of her.

To sum everything up, I find that taking Jackie Stacey’s theory on discourses in cinematics and applying it to the life of fictional Madeleine Hanna can explain more of who exactly Madeleine is as a character and as a concept. We can see how she develops as a character even from the beginning through baby steps as she breaks out of the cookie cutter woman that is expected of her and into an educated young woman who isn’t afraid to step outside of her comfort zone. She shows examples of Stacey’s discourses of escapism, identification, and consumption throughout the novel, even in her early pages.

A Secret History by Donna Tartt – A Psychoanalytical Approach

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a mind-boggling novel about 6 students studying Greek at a college in Vermont where two of the students actually die. There is a lot going on from a mental standpoint in these characters, which Freud’s theory can help with. Despite how horrific the events that happen are, a psychoanalytical approach to the novel allows the reader to really understand the characters presented because it helps one to see into the mind of the characters. The best place to start analyzing would be around the end of chapter 4.

Henry, Francis, and the twins performed a bacchanal party where they went into a “Dionysiac frenzy” (Tartt, 163) and Henry admitted to killing someone after Richard guessed at it. As for why, Henry says that being able “to escape the cognitive mode of experience, to transcend the accident of one’s moment of being” (Tartt, 164) was good enough to attempt the endeavor. Using Freud’s theory, one can asses that this “obsess[ion] with the idea” (Tartt, 164) could potentially be due to an unconscious desire to perform the deed. Henry, throughout the novel, is a quiet gentleman that Richard seems to be able to read well. Given that information of his character, it seems almost as though Henry would be the last person to partake in such an act, giving the sense that it was an unconscious desire that even Henry did not know about.

The novel also contains a good amount of foreshadowing to Henry’s admission of killing someone. Throughout the novel, Richard remarks about how certain things would make sense in the future and how “it is easy to see things in retrospect” (Tartt, 93). This leads one to see how Richard may have repressed some of the events he witnessed. He never quite dwelled on anything until the admission. He would dismiss the events indifferently but his future self would mention how he had wished he knew what was to come. With how fond of the group Richard was, it isn’t difficult to understand why he may have repressed anything questionable or why he tried to keep himself out of issues, such as when Richard witnessed Julian and Henry talking discretely and Richard decided to leave and never mention it (Tartt, 71-72).

Talking about the killing of the man during the bacchanal, Henry discusses how “duality ceases to exist; there is no ego, no ‘I’” (Tartt, 167). In regards to ego, Freud describes it as the way we, as humanity, are most tied down to reality. With Henry’s apparent lack of ego in that moment, it raises the question of how we could even begin to function without ego. In accordance with Henry, we could lose all sense of morals and realities of the world and people around us. Henry describes that losing ego and himself altogether was “like being a baby” (Tartt, 167), which would confirm that it would be like having no moral compass whatsoever.

With all of this in mind, there was really none of the defense mechanisms Freud describes in either Henry, Francis or the twins regarding the bacchanal. All four of them didn’t remember what lead up to the event but very much understood that they had killed a random man somehow. There was no repression or denial of it, except when dealing with Bunny for obvious reasons. None of them presented any projection or displacement of any kind. They simply understood what they had done and didn’t take it out on anyone else. They only wanted to move past it without facing consequences, so they decided to take care of Bunny.

Continuing on with the novel in chapter 5, the group decide to kill Bunny off and stage it as an accident when Bunny begins to blackmail the others. In figuring out how to carry out this plan of killing their friend, Henry’s demeanor begins to change in front of the readers’ eyes. He begins to care less about his own life, which is apparent when Henry mentions how “the more I hear about luxury barges, the less terrible death begins to seem” (Tartt, 235). These subtle things Henry mentions can give the reader a sense of foreshadowing to Henry’s suicide.

Leading up to the suicide was the arrest of Charles for drunk driving. While Richard was attempting to diffuse everything, they started talking about Henry and Richard posed the question of “not why he tells us what to do. But why we always do what he says” (Tartt, 447). It creates the idea that the other characters depend on Henry much more than they let on, especially when Charles can’t come up with a reason why. However, Charles starts to display an example of defense mechanisms onto Henry for why they’re currently in that situation. “I blame every bit of this on him” (Tartt, 447) Charles has said, showing how he has started to use Freud’s defense mechanism of projection.

In conclusion, The Secret History by Donna Tartt displays many instances of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory in regards to the models of the mind and also defense mechanisms. I realize that there are many more just in his psychoanalytic theory along with different theories, but these were the ones I most noticed throughout the novel. It was an overall interesting novel that shows how important the mind and its processes can be in all types of situations.

Claudia Rankine and Her Powerful Poetry

Claudia Rankine is a modern-day poet who sought to advocate the injustice in America done to her fellow African American people. Her poetry in Citizen: An American Lyric is an unusual yet powerful collection since it does not follow any typical poetry devices such as meter, rhyme or formal structure. All of the pieces in this collection flow freely and are compromised in sections that focus on either macroaggressions or microaggressions along with visual images. There in a contrast in language between her examples of microaggressions and macroaggressions, which adds to the impact of her poetry.

In section two of her poetry, Rankine focuses on the macroaggressions against Serena Williams. Serena is a famous black tennis player who had gone through injustices based on her race, which Rankine expresses through her unique poetry style in this section. Within this section is a quote by Zora Neale Hurston which reads “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a white background.” This quote is incredibly significant because it encapsulates the theme of Rankine’s entire collection and is repeated multiple times throughout the collection. This quote expresses what life is truly like“for all black bodies” and allows any race to clearly understand the injustice.

The way that racism works is literally skin deep; Racism makes your skin color and body the only meaningful part of who you are. Rankine even expresses the admiration she had for Serena Williams during a macroaggression on the courts. Rankine identifies the injustice being done and seems even relieved that Serena finally speaks up rather than sit there and accept what is happening to her. Rankine continues to push the recurring idea of black bodies in America in section two of her book.

As offensive as her outburst is,
it is difficult not to applaud her for reacting immediately
to being thrown against a sharp white background. It is
difficult not to applaud her for existing in the moment,
for fighting crazily against the so-called wrongness of her
body’s positioning at the service line.

            On page 35, Rankine includes a photograph of a statue by Nick Cave called Thick Skin. This image’s purpose is to intensify the message she is trying to get across; The image portrays how the statue hides gender, race and class which therefore prevents labeling. By preventing labeling, racism cannot exist in our society yet there is no way to prevent labeling outside of art. It also provides the idea that if there was away to hide our identity, there would be no individuality and we as individuals would lack purpose.

            Serena Williams continued to pursue her dream of tennis even though many people “felt her black body didn’t belong on their court.” Serena’s hardships resulted in quick fixes for the future, including the addition of the Hawkeye. Rankine stated that this new technology “took the seeing away from the beholder”; A phrase which alludes to the common saying“beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Rankine phrases it this way because it takes away some of the power from the umpire and makes it more difficult for outlandish calls to be made against Serena Williams.

Rankine focuses on Serena Williams besides the fact that she is a Black woman but because she is an athlete. Rankine has an understanding that athletes were the ones who were able to break the boundaries of race to become famous and successful, regardless of the color of their skin or the background they are against. Rankine even alludes to the past when Black people were considered property:

While putting forward the arug-
ment that one needs to be white to be truly successful, 
he adds, in an aside, that this might not work for blacks
because if “a n-gger paints a flower it becomes a slavery 
flower, flower de Amistad,” thereby intimating that any
relationship between the white view and the black artist
immediately becomes one between white persons and 
black property.

            Lastly, Rankine includes one last photograph in this Serena Williams section: an image of a famous white tennis player who stuffed her bra and butt with towels to imitate Serena. This photograph describes how the public had wanted a white woman with the same amount of talent as Serena, yet Serena never stopped being her best and being one of the greatest Black women Americans have ever seen. The photograph encapsulates the injusticeSerena has had to face in her career and why she was “traumatized by the aggression” in the sport she loved.

How I Came to be an English Major

At age 3, I almost made my mother faint by reading the word “zoom” off of a billboard with no assistance needed from her. That’s basically when my parents knew reading would be the biggest part of my life. My parents were not big readers, unless you count the Bible my father had on his bedside table. My mother has always been my biggest support system when it came to my love of reading. She would buy me YA books whenever she could and eventually started her own journey in avid reading because of me. The importance of reading started the day my parents adopted me.

My parents would read me a book every night without fail because they believed it would make me more intelligent. However, they only read me old nursery rhymes and the Berenstain Bears. Besides my child level books, we didn’t have many other books in the house. My father didn’t have the attention span to read anything but the Bible and my mom was too busy taking care of me. I was formally taught how to read in my Catholic school. When I came home one night and read perfectly out of a textbook, my mother cried tears of joy. From that day, she began to take me to a library nearby where she and I would stay and look at books for hours.

After my classmates and I were taught how to read, we were then allowed to go to our school library. The library was separated into two sections: one for the elementary school children and one for the middle schoolers. We had reading quizzes we had to take, and the school realized that I was far above the rest of my peers and allowed me to read in the other section. Something I had prided myself on in elementary school was being allowed to read books in the “big kid section” years before anyone else my age. The thing that piqued my interest in reading the most were the Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events books. These were the books that made me want to write and read more. These were dark enough to please my soul and much more of a challenge for me to read, which I enjoyed. Needless to say, a lot of my friends quickly became concerned about me once they realized what I enjoyed reading.

As I got older, I was officially diagnosed with chronic depression and generalized anxiety. I had poor mental health my whole life but wasn’t recognized until I was in high school. Once in high school, I proceeded to start writing my own stories. Most of them were short and primitive with such dark themes that it worried my religious peers. Most were about my life and trying to personify my depression while others were dark twists on fantasy creatures like mermaids.

My early writing was terrible. Because of my mental illnesses not allowing me to focus, I would jump from one subject to the next in my stories and nothing ever made sense. For obvious reasons, this infuriated me and resulted in never finishing a single story I have ever written. This annoying habit has even followed me into academic papers where I will have to go back into my paper and add a paragraph or two. With time and patience, I’ve learned how to work my habit so it no longer hinders me.

Once I started college, I tried to give up my love of reading and writing. I was told by many people in my life that pursuing a degree in something like that would only serve to be a waste of money and time. I started as a computer science major, which ultimately made me more depressed. I didn’t go to a single class for months because my interest in my major wasn’t there. By the end of summer semester 2016, I was kicked out of college for my awful GPA. In those two semesters I was kicked out, I had absolutely no responsibility or job. I had a lot of time to look inside myself and analyze what went wrong and what I can change to be better.

In the summer of 2017, I lived in Michigan for 3 months to work before returning to college in the fall. While in Michigan, I picked my passion of reading up again with newfound friends who shared my love. The book that really brought me back was Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. I ate that book up within a week and regained that feeling of the real world melt from around me and the book come to life in my head. I decided to be selfish and change my major, even if it didn’t make as much money as my previous major.

There isn’t a second I regret switching majors. I regained a piece of who I am and became happier to go to class. Being happier in my major and life overall gave me the confidence to apply to write for the Odyssey here at Kennesaw State, which I have now been writing for since September of 2017. I began to actively try to expand my vocabulary in my free time and gained an amazing support system. My mother expresses how proud she is of me each and every day. My boyfriend expresses his interest in my major by learning along with me and always boosting my confidence when I allow him to read what I’ve written.

I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my major. Initially, it was to teach, but now I’m minoring in professional writing. However, the courses for my major interest me and make me excited for the future. My support system continues to push me on difficult days when I need it most as well. All of these things are the only proof I need to know that I am on the right track for my life and future.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Professional Writing Courses Teach You More Than Just Professional Writing

When I first entered Dr. Haimes-Korn’s Professional Writing Course in August of 2018, I was very apprehensive. As she detailed what we would be doing in her course for the semester, my social anxiety told me to drop the class the second she mentioned we would be interviewing strangers. Against that voice in my head, I stayed with the class and I am incredibly happy that I did. I have grown as a writer, as a student, and as a person by sticking with this class.

My content design team for my professional writing course.

This course teaches you so much more than professional writing. One of the most useful things I learned in this class was how to work within a content design team made up of fellow students. I learned how to provide useful feedback and how to take constructive criticism to make my writing even better. I even learned from my teammates to stop making those same mistakes in my future writings throughout the course. Most importantly, I learned how to work as a team and collaborate with my group, which wasn’t what I had anticipated considering group work in college is usually the worst. It was an added bonus that I really like my team members. I’ll always be grateful to my team members Allyson, Caroline, and Donna for helping me grow personally and always helping with my writing.

Another thing I learned about was what experiential reviews are. Not only that, but I learned that I love them. I actually love them so much that I actually wrote two, one of which wasn’t even an assignment for class. By learning to write experiential reviews, I observe new places with a new eye. I take in everything about the place I’m visiting, from sounds to smells. For example, when I visited The Masquerade, I observed that the venue “smells of old antiques and is dimly lit with gothic chandeliers”, which isn’t something I would have normally noticed.  I was able to really immerse myself in the experience of seeing that concert, knowing I would have to write about it later. This assignment made me want to write about more places and immerse myself even further in the future.

This course also helped me understand who I am as a person, as well as a writer, better than before. Through our professional identity and marketing skills assignment, I was able to really understand who I am and express that to others through my blog. I learned that “I tend to focus on my communication skills, organizational skills, and time management skills. I can learn new tasks quickly, communicate effectively, and strive to do tasks to the best of my ability.” By completing that assignment, I learned who I am to employers and in the job market while being able to express that coherently through writing. That assignment alone provided a lot of help with my future goals.

Our final project in the course was probably the most challenging for myself, which was to interview someone and write an article for the Rescue Dog Olympics held in Atlanta. This assignment was my first time having to perform a journalistic style interview with someone I didn’t know and write up an article detailing what that person had told me. The most intense part was the interview itself. However, after interviewing with my assigned client, I realized that I learned so much as a writer and as an individual.

Screenshot (25)
Rescue dog River from my spotlight article for Rescue Dog Olympics.

Given my mental health, I thought I would inevitably fail the task but quickly realized that wasn’t the case. I first hand learned how to hold a conversation with a client in order to get information to write an article, and it really wasn’t all that bad. I actually had fun doing it, which made me realize I was much stronger than I give myself credit for. Writing up the actual article, I learned how to convert questions and answers into an easy to follow story that was engaging and heartwarming. My article was all about a rescue dog named River and I actually have great pride in being able to tell her story. This assignment helped me realize the potential I have as a writer and opened a new career interest for me.

This website is my ongoing writing portfolio, and this class was an amazing way to jumpstart it. I not only learned how to write experiential reviews and journalistic articles, but I learned how to create interesting infographics and how to create engaging blog posts. Outside of writing, I learned how to branch away from my comfort zone, work within a group, and understand who I am as an individual. This class was a great joy to take and I will forever be grateful for ignoring that inner voice that told me to switch classes at the beginning of the semester because I would have missed out on so many great opportunities to grow as a writer and as a person.

River the Rescue

There are many stigmas held against rescue dogs that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Some of the stigmas people may believe is that, rescue dogs can not be trained and will have behavioral issues. Another is that rescue dogs can’t be purebreds. The final, and largest, stigma is that rescue dogs are given up because there is something wrong with them. In reality, most dogs are given up to shelters because of moving, personal issues, no room, financial reasons or even lack of time. Some of the dogs in shelters have lived a hard life and have a rough and abusive past, but that does not mean the dog is “broken”. Take River for example.

River’s Story

River waiting for treats.

River, a two-year-old Black Mouth Cur mix, was rescued by Jill and Jay Waddell, when she was just six months old. River had gone through some difficult things in her short life. River originally came from an abusive and neglectful situation, spending most of her life in a crate, without any bonds with humans or dogs. When she was rescued from that situation and brought to a shelter, she faced several families who adopted her and then quickly returned her. It can be assumed that it was due to the fact that River needed some extra time and attention.

Jill and Jay met River and ended up adopting her and renamed her River to stick the theme of their previous two dogs named Canoe and Kayak! They were a little wary at first after hearing how families had brought her back, as anyone would be. They soon realized why she had been brought back and started to fit the puzzle pieces of her past together.

River started out pretty aggressive. While she never hurt anyone, she would bite their clothes and pull or jump all over them. They observed this behavior mainly in the backyard. This led them to believe that her crate had been in the backyard. She would also start to panic whenever there was any sort of yard equipment in her rescuer’s hands, such as a rake. This led them to believe that River had been previously been abused with yard tools. River also liked to lick anything metal, which they assumed was a form of her self comforting, since most of her life at that point had been in a metal cage.

River  had no concept of how to be a “normal” domesticated pup. She didn’t know how to play and did not know how to act around people or dogs. Jill and Jay eventually went to a trainer for help with helping River. The approach of the first trainer was not a good fit, which involved reacting to the negative behavior in a negative/ punitive way.  Instead, they discovered the best way to deal with the aggressive behavior which was River’s fear reaction was through love. Whenever River got riled up, they would sit with her and just hold her tight–even when she would try to wiggle out, they showed River that, no matter what, she had a family who unconditionally loved her and would always be there for her. She would softly tell her nice things and showered her in love. She would do this as long as twenty minutes until River felt safe enough.

River Today

Screenshot (26)
River being patient.

Fast forward to now, River is a completely different dog, even though she is still a work in progress. She is only two years old, so she still has quite a bit of energy. She has even received the title of being the business partner in the organization of the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. “She doesn’t have any actual assistant responsibilities,” Jill had joked. However, River’s job does entail lots of emotional support and snuggles. She is constantly loving on her family as well as everyone else. She also loves to run, play with toys and now knows how to have fun with other dogs. Just by giving River the love that she so desperately wanted and some extra time and care, Jill and Jay were able to completely transform her into a beloved member of the family.

At the moment, Jill is training River to become a therapy dog for chronically ill children.  She says that because River has so much love to give to others that she would make a great therapy dog to those in need. River still has a lot of work to do, since she still has so much energy and loves to jump on people to show her love, but will still make a great therapy dog in time.

River’s Impact

River is just one example of the countless rescue dog stories being made every single day. Rescuing a dog from a shelter as opposed to buying one directly from a breeder has so many benefits. By rescuing a dog saves two lives: the life of the dog rescued and the life of another dog in need that can now come to the shelter due to the open space. Most rescues are already spayed or neutered and even microchipped. Most adult dogs are already potty-trained and with a rescue, the workers will be able to tell you about the dog’s unique personality. According to the ASPCA, about 3.3 million dogs are brought into rescue shelters while 1.6 million dogs are adopted each year. By adopting a rescue, you can help shelters bring in more dogs that are in need and keep the euthanization rates low.

Rescue dogs have so much potential that more people need to see, which is a reason Jill started the Rescue Dog Olympics in Atlanta. It’s a dog lovin’ festival and dog party on Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Piedmont Park.  It’s a chance for people to do something fun with their dogs and for families looking to adopt to meet some great rescue organizations and find their new family member. It’s a way to spread awareness to the greatness inside every rescue dog and to show just how much they deserve to be loved for their entire lives.