Technoromanticism » Collin Lam English 738T, Spring 2015 Thu, 21 May 2015 19:52:25 +0000 en hourly 1 Responsible History: Blake’s The Book of Urizen and Virtue Epistemology Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:51:44 +0000 Collin Lam Read more ]]> In February 2015, Oklahoma lawmakers attempted to cut funding for new AP history program because it presented a ‘radically revisionist view of American history.’[i] The radically different history that the state government was trying to extricate from the optional AP program was one that failed to highlight a staunch view of American ‘exceptionalism.’ A main concern was that the course had been ‘written in a way that does not promote a particular political position or interpretation of history;’ the subversive history program’s outline wanted to incorporate the United States’ use of WWII internment camps and “moral questions raised by the dropping of the atomic bomb.” The lawmakers’ explicit use of history as a political tool notwithstanding, political censorship of history is, of course, nothing new. But what happens when that history is not quietly censored but openly changed to suit a more desirable origin narrative? When the political system, through its own disquiet, exposes the constructed model of our social and historical beginnings that it desires so desperately to naturalize? Oklahoma did not want the history program to make a more objective or truthful historical account, merely one that viewed the U.S. as the good protagonist. The problem that this event brings to light is not what can be known about our history, but that there is a responsibility of knowing that we have toward our own origin story because we are its architects.

Blake’s The Book of Urizen re-envisions the Western “original” origin myth, taken from the dominant theological perspective of Christianity. What we see when placing this poem in conjunction with our own national narrative is that his 18th century Britain and our 21st century America are not as disparate as they may first seem. Entrenched beliefs about America’s Christian upbringing permeate a large portion of political rhetoric, while we continue to pass laws across the country that push to bridge the gap between church and state. Yet, the point of this essay is not to confront Christianity as a social model, but rather that America’s fervent desire to return to its believed origins warrants a discussion not about particular origin stories, but how origin myths present a unique opportunity to address what we believe to know about ourselves and our responsibility toward that knowledge.

This “responsible knowing” idea relates to recent philosophical work done in both epistemology and ethics, which are directly or indirectly in conversation with a disillusioned attitude toward the possibility of absolute knowledge. Particularly, virtue epistemologists over the last 30 years have been trying to determine the moral implications of knowing when knowledge may be logically indeterminable. Unlike consequentialist or deontological ethics, which focus on the moral implications of “acts” instead of the person, virtue ethics decidedly focuses on the moral “agent” and not the “act.” Similarly, virtue epistemology views knowing/knowledge through the person knowing and not an “objective” knowledge itself. The question that this permits is: if knowing is not about immutable knowledge but about the person/society who does the knowing, then what responsibilities does that person/society have in the act of knowing? Blake’s The Book of Urizen implicitly brings to light the responsibility which emerges when we try to construct a self-identity through a single-perspective, historical narrative. Namely, it calls into question why any particular origin story is at all different from any other, even if their antithetical counterpart ends up in the same eventual place, a state of dictated unity. If knowing our history is not just about the truth of already happened events but an “interpretation of history”, then that history is about knowing ourselves in the present relative to our past.

What Urizen makes us consider in this case is: do we have a responsibility to perpetuate a single-perspective history of America, whereby such an America is always the good protagonist, or does that responsibility extend beyond our own desire for the nation to be its own self-generated savior? If we are a “melting-pot” country, comprised out of numerous cultures, languages, and histories that appear to conflict with the constructed national narrative of “exceptionalism,” are we responsible for incorporating those “other” narratives as well? For good or ill? If we don’t then what nation’s history are we retelling? One that does not and has not existed. That history becomes irreferential with no actual place in time to connect it. If we are responsible, then that forces us to recognize our own fragmented and often self-destructive past, fraught with marring stories of by-gone horrors and subjugative tendencies. Something that, of course, makes us no different from the rest of world; it makes us responsible for being decidedly unexceptional.

[i] Hartmann, Margaret. “Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Voted to Ban AP U.S. History.” Daily Intelligencer: New York, Feb. 18 2015.

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Another Thought on PWG Project Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:59:48 +0000 Collin Lam Read more ]]> So, it was no secret that I was infatuated with Kyle’s presentation on Prezi the other day. Every time Prezi moved to a new frame, it appeared to create the illusion of a 3-D model that I thought was incredibly interesting. For our PWG project, instead of a two dimensional frame presentation like Storyscape or Twine, would there be a way to access a more in-depth story generating model in 3-D? By applying virtual depth to the project, we could create a three dimensional network that would sort of resemble a world or galaxy of our pirated version, which would add a updated feel to the Storyscape model but also allow for a more accessible system of frame networking, if we were to allow for people outside our group to add their own stories or help with the creation of our “monster” story.

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Patchwork Girl Project: Post-Gender Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:37:38 +0000 Collin Lam Read more ]]> As we know from reading Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, it involves a strong feminist reading and re-writing of Shelley’s Frankenstein; one that endeavors to animate the “marginalia” between Shelley’s words. This “marginalia” is the female monster, both the one not created by Shelley and the one written by Jackson. But, it is also the female monster that Jackson believed resided within Shelley herself. The young, marginalized female writer in a world of male writing. What if we were to try and construct this project around a non-gendered “subject” or monster. In our age of burgeoning transgender/pan-sexual/a-sexual/neutral-gender rights, the demarcation of male and female is becoming an antiquated and constricting identity distinction. Could we try to create our project out of a posthumanist, yes, but also post-gender position? Perhaps something akin to Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body, but in hypertext form? Since many of the people who consider themselves outside the confines of the female/male distinction still don’t possess much, or sometimes any, political representation, I think we could consider them to be our contemporary “marginalia”; those that are marginalized outside the primary conversation of identity politics.

Reading Frankenstein, I was intrigued at Victor’s “choosing” of body parts and wondered if he chose particular pelvises or penises for the most “beautiful” male genitalia. We simply assume while reading that he has attached male genitalia (there is a tongue-cheek moment there of male bonding), since the creature is considered male. But, what if he chose neither male nor female genitalia? What if we ventured by the same choice, not to choose one over the other? I’m not exactly sure how this would play out by “pirating” Jackson’s/Shelley’s work into our own, but I do like the fact that “pirating” concerns itself with skirting just outside the periphery of the law; a place that those who do not fall within the male/female distinction exist as well (political law and social “law” or normativity). The formal structuring of the project could embody the same premise as Jackson’s. And as Kayla suggested in her earlier post, there would be a multitude of voices, and their identity would not be founded on the physical or material manifestation (or telling) of gendered parts but on the identification of their distinct voices in contrast to a representation of “law” (either political or even Eastgate).

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Hinge Narration: Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:04:42 +0000 Collin Lam Read more ]]> “The hinges, marks of separation and meeting, remain like quotes around a missing presence.” -Heather McHugh “Essay at Saying”

At the beginning of the semester, we discussed the identity of the “Book”. The Romantic ideal that seems to attach itself to a uniformly understood construction of material narrative. We attempted to understand exactly what the “Book” might be and in what forms might it manifest. Is there such thing as the “Book”, or is it merely a placeholder term for an unformed, ever changing notion of how a narrative is presented to us? The digital push in the humanities has been an attempt to dislodge the formerly static idea of the “Book” from its historically material constraints, i.e. paper, bindings, the spine, ink. However, revisiting works such as Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and its unusual formulation at the time of its publications proffers a more historically complicated notion of the “Book” than we might have first imagined or would entirely attribute to digital humanities alone. Blake’s etching method (relief etching) and its painstaking process of disintegrating away the unprotected metal until only the “illuminated” remained can undoubtedly be hailed as a “hacking” of sorts. His unconventional method of printing bypassed the contemporary method of book printing for both his time and ours.

While book “hacking” has been far more common in today’s print culture, which can be seen often times in the benign form of children’s literature like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, postmodern literature, or, more recently, digital literature (hypertext narratives), the resilient moniker of “Book” still remains. In regard to hypertext fiction like Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, however, the stability of the “Book” begins to slightly waver. Citationally, as I have done in the last sentence (and this one), Patchwork Girl continues to be represented as a book for purposes of academic clarity, but any discussion of its formal structure would hesitate to apply such a seemingly inapplicable term to it. Like her monster, Jackson’s Patchwork Girl is an amalgamation of parts yet still a whole; it is a world(s) (a)part, comprised of disjunctive frames of narrative that are attached to each other formalistically (hypertext), but only by way of interactive, sub-formal access (clicking on the hypertext). It is what I’d like to call hinge narration. Unlike non-narrative hypertext such as Wikipedia pages or social media hyperlinks, which I would deem more a system of hypertextual information than narrative, hinge narration posits its own need for artistic conclusion, but more ephemerally it helps enact a certain form of self-identification that “hinges” on narrative closure. Hinge narration works, like postmodern art, as a way to show how it observes, not necessarily what it observes. Formalistically, and in relation to traditional, material book narratives, Patchwork Girl illuminates the passages (understood as the “quilt” passages of the text and the immaterial connections between them) of artistic narrative. The “map” in the Storyscape of Patchwork Girl literally shows the passages to the narrative passages; it makes obvious what is not obvious in normative narrative construction (the material book). We see the stitches which comprise the body of the text, the “scars” that are shown remind us of those hidden by past bodies. Through creating her “monster”, Jackson unveils the negative space of narrative; the jagged, appositional relations of letters, words, sentences, and ideas that we make within our minds while reading. The “hinges” come to the surface and, furthermore, show us that the narrative door is capable of being closed and open simultaneously. We can take each “quilt” or rectangular frame as an enclosed passage of writing and as a point of departure. Yet, more so, these illuminated “hinges” invoke the memory of narrative as well. It is not enough to simply follow the passages set forth for us but to recognize that Jackson’s hinge narrative recollects the past by embarking on a genealogical endeavor to unearth the dead (Mary Shelley), reanimate it within a new body of textuality, force a return to our own reading past and reading the past itself by quoting other readers, and concluding somewhere/anywhere within the passages of time and its narrative. Indeed, in order for it to perform any act of self-identification or presence (present), it must find its own narrative end/conclusion in the conclusion of the past, but as Faulkner said and Jackson enacts: “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Thus, that closure may come in one, few, or all of those quilted passages or even with the image of the women herself , which we find –

At the beginning

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