Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gender Constitution

In Judith Butlers essay "Performance Acts and Gender Constitution", she claims that "one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman". I see where she is coming from, but I have a hard time agreeing with her. I have plenty of friends who are male and have many feminine qualities but do not want to be women, and are not considered a woman by my standards. I myself have a few womanly qualities, but it doesn't matter. People should just be themselves, and if that means acting in a way that society thinks your gay because you act like a woman and your a man then who cares? Are there certain instances when you feel you have to act like your gender is supposed to? If your a girl and your watching a romance movie with your girl friends do you feel you have to be emotional and really into the story just because your other friends are? If your a guy watching the football game with your guy friends who are really into it and your really not do you feel compelled to start yelling and screaming too just because they are even though you really don't care about the game?

Identity Crisis: What Constitutes Gender and Identity?

"Gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceed; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time -- an identity, instituted through a stylized repetition of acts."-- Judith Butler
In "Performance Acts and Gender Constitution", an essay written by Judith Butler, she attempts to show that gender reality is not dependent on the realization of ones identity but is rather a sign of ones body responding to "historical situations" and is "a manner of doing, dramatizing and reproducing a historical situation." This particular view of gender and identity really threw me off because it is completely outside of thoughts of what I have been taught. I believe that the gender of a person is simple: they are either male or female. It doesn't matter if you "act" more feminine or masculine in your mannerisms, you are what you are. In the dawn of the battle between sexual independence and the manifestation of people desiring to be the determining force of whether they are "male" or "female" (based off of the actions), I would like to pose this question: What Constitutes Your Gender and Identity? Do you feel that it is predicated on actions repeated in history or are you in complete control of who you are and the characteristics of your personality/image?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Behind A Mask

Alcott's thriller raises questions about masks, performance, and everyday life, in particular about gender and class. For Thursday, we'll add in theorist Judith Butler's ideas from "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"She walks in beauty" Lord Byron

In this poem Lord Byron is describing a beautiful woman, not only is she physically beautiful, her mind is rich, yet pure and innocent at the same time. “All that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes”. This is an interesting piece for me because in most poems I’ve read or texts I’ve seen the writer usually compares the woman to the sun and beautiful flowers, not to the night. Byron shows the beauty of night and shows how this woman is special because not only is she beautiful like the day she can be “cloudless” and “starry” just as the night. I take this as a comparison of her innocent side and her curious adventurous side, her ability to be both dark and light or night and day makes her far more appealing, she is a multi dimensional woman. He is taken aback by her beauty he describes how a single shadow or a single ray of sun taken away from her is not ok because the way the light hits her is just right, her thoughts are written on her face and her “pure” and “dear” “dwelling place” aka heart is most likely sitting right on her sleeve. She not only seems to be beautiful but she is, inside and out. It is clear that he is an admirer but I wonder if he had a real relationship with her or for that matter if he even would, or is she just an object of his affection and admiration.

Lord Byron's Darkness

“I had a dream, which was not a dream at all” right from the beginning Lord Byron is telling us that these terrible things he is describing are really happening. The description he gives of the sun extinguished and days that bring no sun reminded me of what I’d heard about “the year with no summer” when Mt. Tambora erupted in 1815. It was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The massive eruption caused dramatic climate changes all over the world; this was the world Byron was writing of. To many this must have seemed like the fire and brimstone of judgment day bearing down on the world. However the newly emerging forms of science had their own, less radical explanations. Maybe Lord Byron is questioning his faith in the face of these new scientific explanations. He uses biblical descriptions of judgment day to describe what he’s seeing, however through his eyes in this land of darkness he no longer sees G-D in nature and the people around him. In lines such as “the meager by the meager were devour’d” and when he speaks of one dog “faithful to a corpse” he is attacking the idea of faith. Then in the last two lines when he writes, “Darkness had no need or aid from them –She was the universe” he is saying there is no G-D, no higher power, only flawed weak people. Maybe the question he is asking is whether in this new world of science and reason there is any room left for faith.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Romanticism Podcast by Lori Landay

This podcast serves two purposes: it informs you about the context for the poetry we are reading this week and also is a model for an enhanced podcast or multimedia project.

Wordsworth: "I wandered lonely as a cloud" (43), "Mutability" (57)
Byron "She walks in beauty" (114)
Keats: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (218)
Blake, from "America: a Prophecy" (21)

For Thursday, read:
Coleridge: "Kubla Khan" (p. 105), "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," (p. 63)
Shelley: "Ode to the West Wind" (151)
Byron, "Darkness" (127)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"To be, or not to be"

Now we are in the thick of it--of Hamlet, of asking "What Is Being?" For next time, analyze Hamlet's famous speech to discover what "being" means in this particular context.

And here are our three interpretations: Olivier, Tennant, and Hawke:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"these indeed seem,/ For they are actions that a man might play"

Today we continue our exploration of performance as we forge forward in Hamlet, joined by slam poet, performer extraordinaire, and faculty advisor to the Berklee Poetry Club, Caroline Harvey. We'll revisit the idea that all performance involves a consciousness of doubleness (Carlson, 73, summarizing Bauman): "Performance is always performance for someone" (73).


Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe. Act 1, Scene 2

at around the 4 minute mark, in this clip from the Royal Shakespeare Company film:


O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

Kenneth Branagh's performance of Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 1, scene 2

In this clip, Patrick Stewart discusses setting Shakespeare in a contemporary or historical context, acting for stage and film, and some issues about performance that are central to our discussions.