"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance." - William Shakespeare


I love how you can use literature to say (almost) anything:

Ideological Reading: Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

"Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid

One might say that this is a poem which takes a certain ideological position. It is clearly a 'feminist' poem which is critical of the male world for terrifying and oppressing 'Aunt Jennifer' -- causing her to create an alternate world of freedom, one which she could not inhabit other than imaginatively or aesthetically. The desolating effects of patriarchy are assumed and exposed, in three quatrains.

The poem has some ideological assumptions and implications of its own, however, which render it, potentially, something less than -- or at least other than -- a forceful expression of the evils of patriarchy. The struggles for existence of so many in a harsh world, and the deep conflicts of bondage and freedom humans wrestle with on so many planes, are reduced to gender conflict... Rich has herself created an ideological structure which silences or excludes much of human experience. Children, hunger, war, disease, the struggles of the spirit, racial and religious injustice and oppression, are dissolved into the tragedy -- which it is on one level -- of an apparently upper-middle-class woman who could express her desire for freedom only in her art...

The first stanza gives an idealized, romanticized picture which shows that the Aunt was trapped in something more than gender oppression: she was protected from almost everything we know of the real world. Her tragedy may seem of diminished proportions for those people lining up at the food bank... The poem in its opening statement locates us in Aunt Jennifer's bourgeois, privileged world, and as we assent to that line we assent to the assumptions which keep us from challenging it. "Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen." In how many households in the world can 'screens' with tigers prancing across them be asumed to be normal? What would the function of this screen be, how would it advance the survival of the family or the society? Presumably it is not for privacy. Drafts?...

Aunt Jennifer is located as well as an oppressor. The tigers which symbolize the freedom of spirit which she dreams of but never achieved except in her dreams as rendered in her art, are themselves figures of her location as an oppressor, because they locate her in relation to India, and hence to imperialism and to cultural and economic exploitation, and they also locate her as a person who never actually had to live in the vicinity of a real tiger at all, whose very insulation from the terrors of the world of raw desire and need, of the violence of survival, is inscribed in her use of them as figures of elegant freedom and playful power...

The wonder of the art of Aunt Jennifer is that, working her dreams as an escape from the terrifying power of the husband, living locked in an isolated, bourgeios consciousness, she produces the very image of her oppression...

Our own reading is itself materially as well as ideologically located -- in this case we are reading it as members of a university, as people earning money for or paying money for a course leading to a university degree, as those who perpetuate the privileged place of literature as a discourse protected from social accountability by its 'quality'"

Pieces of literature are great Rorshach tests!

No wonder it leads to psychosis.
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