English 738T, Spring 2015
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Author Archives: Sara Lyons

According to Merriam-Webster, Prosthesis is “medical: an artificial device that replaces a missing or injured part of the body”. In Neuromancer, prosthetics are more than physical devices but figurative-made-literal ways of discussing the absence and presence of pieces of self. In other words, I argue that the novel documents Case as he attempts to reconcile his lacks in order to assemble some type of cohesive self.

Case first relies on the matrix in order to do this, which is fleeting, faulty. Once he gets this ability back he connects the matrix to himself on a deep level: “This was it. This was what he was, who he was, his being” (59). He depends on this as a prosthetic of self which, once taken from him, becomes a lack. Indeed, the original lack stems from his fragmented identity (between the virtual and the real), but he misconstrues this, perceiving the present lack as the focus for his discomfort. So, he attempts to fill his lack of the matrix with drugs: “In some weird and very approximate way, it was like a run in the matrix. Get just wasted enough, find yourself in some desperate but strangely arbitrary kind of trouble, and it was possible to see Ninsei as a field of data, the way the matrix had once reminded him of proteins linking to distinguish cell specialties” (16). It’s apparent, though, that this prosthetic is imperfect; like a prosthetic limb, it only resembles the original, it doesn’t encompass it. As mentioned before, though, this is a prosthetic of a prosthetic, making it even more imperfect.

Another example of this is in Linda Lee and Molly. Linda Lee, once dead, haunts Case, becoming a presence of an absence that pulls him between the real and the unreal – a prosthetic that presents the struggle between the two worlds of the text, and for Case. This provides some meaning to her haunting him as he doesn’t seem all that emotionally invested in Linda Lee as a person once she’s gone. Molly, too, exists in the real world and the virtual. It is Molly’s physical prosthetic – her mirrored eyes – that implicate Case’s self-examination.

In the end, then, Case can only achieve a cohesion of self through his division of the virtual and real worlds. The text says, “He attained a level of proficiency exceeding anything he’d known or imagined. Beyond ego, beyond personality, beyond awareness…grace of the mind-body interface granted him, in that second, by the clarity and singleness of his wish to die” (262). This “wish to die” seems negative, but what Case experiences here is an epiphany followed by that cohesive thought – and “clarity.” I feel it’s no coincidence, then, that he is saved by the song that proclaims “a true name” (262), which indicates a true self for Case. This is only part one of is reconciliation, however: the other part lies in his final refusal of the virtual reality of the matrix. The final climax of the story marks this when Case tells Neuromancer, “I don’t need you” (270). In fact, those are the last words before we find out what happens to Case in his “happily ever after.” His final refusal of the overall self-prosthetic, the matrix, allows Case to exist outside of and within the matrix, both cohesively. I say this because there is a version of his self that lives within the matrix, with Linda Lee. In fully disconnecting his virtual and real selves, he’s allowed the ability to function as a cohesive self in both realities.


Urizen & Genesis

Posted by Sara Lyons in Spring 2015 - (0 Comments)

What follows will be my (as of yet) underdeveloped thoughts regarding the Book of Urizen, particularly how it compares to the Book of Genesis and what that comparison reveals. (I will further develop this later.)

I feel as though Blake forms Urizen based on Genesis in order to evoke a comparison of the two in the mind of the reader and does so to ultimately subvert that very text…

In Blake’s retelling of the Biblical book, he takes multiple characters from the original and conflates them into singular characters. A primary example of this is Urizen himself, who appears to be a conflation of God and Satan. I’ve read online that some are certain that Urizen is the fallen angel, Lucifer, but in my own reading he is more akin to God himself. At the same time, we get characters like Los and Enitharmon who clearly mirror Adam and Eve; yet, Los seems to have a creative power like that of Urizen in that Enitharmon doesn’t just come from his body, but he creates her. Furthermore, Los is called the “Eternal Prophet” which complicates his role as the creation of Urizen (if he is) because Adam was not a prophet. The “eternal” part of Los’ title comes back into a reading of him as Adam-like because he later loses his “eternity” in copulating with Enitharmon, just as Adam and Eve lose Eden (paradise) in their copulation. After the birth of their child (the serpent), the text says “Stretch’d for a work of eternity/No more Los beheld Eternity”, indicating that Los is now a mortal man (like Adam). In Urizen, then, the result of this copulation is described as a “worm” that turns into a “serpent”; this clearly alludes to the serpent that tempts Adam and Eve from the Garden: “Coild within Enitharmons womb/The serpent grew casting its scales/With sharp pangs the hissings began/To change to a grating cry/Many sorrows and dismal throes/Many forms of fish, bird & beast/Brought forth an Infant form/Where was a worm before.” Yet the fact that the intercourse causes the serpent, rather than the serpent causing the intercourse, seems suggestive of something else (though I have yet to think through this further as to what it might be suggesting).

Beyond the content of the text, I find the textual aspects implicated in this project fascinating (and relevant) as well. The Bible, especially Genesis, has many pieces by many authors that anyone could take as the authoritative text – the same goes for the many existing texts of Urizen. In textual aspects, then, too, Blake subverts the integrity of the Biblical text by following its form.

This takes more close reading and research on my part.


Re-working Patchwork Girl

Posted by Sara Lyons in Spring 2015 - (0 Comments)

I’m interested in what Denis and Kyle discuss in their posts, as far as our class project on Frankenstein and PWG. So, I would like to propose that we produce a product like PWG that re-tells Frankenstein and PWG specifically in terms of the creator/created dynamic. I’m very interested in how creation seems to be at the center of these two products, and how the content of each reflects a literal creation in the forming of the very thing reflecting the act of creation (the texts). If we do it this way, we can address the problems of access in regard to PWG, especially given Jackson’s apparent want for freedom of her creation. Not only will this promote the point of our project (in my opinion) but it will also reflect the “problem” of controlling or “caging” a creation/creature once it has been released into the world. Furthermore, I would like to include the “quilt” aspect within our project. In both of the texts the creations are made from a number of different sources, as are the texts themselves – Jackson’s quote about many authors and ghost writing comes into play here.

Overall I would like to produce a text that reflects and complicates the notion of the creator and the creation when it comes to the act of creation itself (How many people are involved? What were the literal and figurative influences?) and the role of control the creator has versus the control over the creation.

“It’s Alive!”

Posted by Sara Lyons in Spring 2015 - (2 Comments)

Frankenstein embodies the act of creation, thus reflecting and complicating the creation of Man by God, the creation of Child by Mother, and the creation of Art by Artist. Mary Shelley herself can attest to the roles of Man, Child, Mother, and Artist; this fails to account for the other aspects – God and Art – neither of which can have an active voice as they don’t actually speak in the real world. However, her inclusion of all of these aspects within the act of creation – around which she centers the novel – serves to comment on the power and responsibility of creator over the created, thereby commenting on and comparing the three different creation models simultaneously.

In class we discussed the likely possibility that Shelley intended Frankenstein as a feminist novel due to the consequences of men attempting to eliminate women in the act of creation (in the novel, at least). Although we discussed the lack of (surviving) women, I would like to take this aspect of “failed” creation even further. The fact that Victor fails to unconsciously differentiate between Elizabeth and his mother, as shown in the dream, reveals that Victor’s perception of procreation is skewed. He cannot get over his own mother’s death – the lack of his own mother – so he attempts the act of creation as such. The Being attempts to remedy this in his asking of Victor for a female version of himself. Couldn’t one say that our parents are like ourselves, and, to an extent,  from where we get our sense of identity? This, alongside the Being’s search for identity, supports a reading of this as a failed act of creation due to the Being’s lack of a mother.

At the same time, Victor himself labels the relationship between him and the Being as more than that of Parent/Child. He says, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (36). This indicates that Victor attempts to take on the role of God in the act of creation. He creates something like but not altogether human in the hope that this Being will look to him the way humans look to God. While many have written or spoken of Victor as acting upon pride, in this case, I would argue instead that Victor is attempting to create a being for the sake of companionship and affection. It is clear that Victor does not act in order to better science or to understand something new, but that he is acting in response to the loss of his mother and, arguably, to the loss of the friends and family he leaves behind in order to attend school. Altogether, I believe Victor makes his creation not to have a being to worship him, but to simply create one that cannot leave him. Despite Victor’s motives (whatever they may truly be), Shelley directly connects Victor’s act of creation with God’s. The fact that Victor does this and incurs misery from it indicates that Man can and should only go so far; that certain acts of creation are not meant for man, but left to a higher power.

Indeed, Shelley attributes Victor’s failure in the act of creation to his lack of ability to take on the role that act was designed for: Victor has never been nor could ever be a Mother or God. Thus, Shelley reserves certain acts of creation for certain individuals least he/she that attempts to do so suffer for it through negative consequences. Yet, Shelley also implies the act of creation by an Artist on a work of Art. It seems clear, then, that Shelley implies that the creator may only do so much in characterizing the final creation – then the creation continues to act (either actively or passively) on its own. When one applies this take on the act of creation to the Parent/Child and God/Man models, it alleviates a bit of Victor’s guilt: the negative behaviors of a child or by humans are not automatically attributed to the parent or to God. Not all the time anyway.

So what does this mean for Victor’s act of creation? Ultimately, Victor put his soul into his work in creating the Being, only to be horrified by it. This is the key aspect of Victor’s act – God isn’t horrified by man, neither is the Mother usually horrified by her child. The artist, though, is frequently horrified by his/her work, especially as he/she finishes it. Therefore, Victor fails as God to or Mother of his creation, and survives as the artist. Shelley, then, seems to comment on the Artist’s act of creation in that the piece of art leaves the hands of the artist to be interpreted, or even changed, by the society in which it resides.  I’m not entirely sure the other implications of this, other than the responsibility of the Artist to maintain the integrity of his/her work – if Victor had kept tabs on the Being, everything could have been different. This could be said of Mary’s own work with Frankenstein, as she released it into the world in 1818 to have it changed by others – through literal edits and figurative interpretations – only to have her take responsibility for the work and the changes within it in 1831.