September 7, 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
Meditation IV and the Thinking Body
One thing that really stuck out to me while reading “Meditation IV” and “The Thinking Body” is how both writers wrote about the connection between the body and memory/imagination. In my opinion, a person’s imagination is very important. A person’s imagination can reveal about them because through imagination anything is possible. Also memory is a form of imagination. Although memories are visions of something that has happened already and not something that is made up; a person can see the same memory different each time and like the imagination it can reveal a lot about a person because you do not remember everything usually only things that hold significance to your life. Both writers include how the senses directly connect to imagination and memory.
In “Meditation IV” the writer mentions a lot about imagination. On quote that stuck out to me was, “I am accustomed to imagine many other objects…colors, sounds, tastes, pain, and the like, although with less distinctiveness; and as much as I perceive these objects much better by the senses through the medium of which and of memory, they seem to reached the imagination” (Meditation IV). To me, the author is trying to say that as life goes on your imagination will become more distinct and include memories and be more realistic. A child may have an imagination that has more fantasy and unrealistic things happen while an adult might imagine something with more realistic characteristics. For instance, they might reimagine a memory to go more the way they wished it had gone, or a way it could have been wore. Also they’re memories could influence their imagination.
In “The Thinking Body” the writer focuses more on memory. The writer states, “Memory like to recall the whole body…We remember each body in action” (The Thinking Body). I thought this was very interesting because I never thought of my memory working in that way. So once I read this part of the reading I started thinking of people and they were all doing something in my head they weren’t just simply standing the with a blank face, like a mug shot. Also when I think back every time somebody asks me if I remember a person they usually tell a story of them doing something or they have to describe the person as a whole. In conclusion, when you are trying to remember a person in your mind your imagination gets to work and started to recreate an image of that person doing the action you remember them doing.
Both readings speak on imagination and memory. Both writers included how the senses help with both as well. While these were not the only things discussed in the readings this is what stuck out to me.
7 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
“Meditation IV” and “The Thinking Body”
In reading René Descartes’ “Meditation VI” and Mabel Elsworth Todd’s “The Thinking Body”, I could not help but compare the two. While they both focus on aspects of the body of the mind, their perspectives on how the two are intertwined greatly differ. Despite this, reading these two texts together gave valuable insight into how the body and the mind work through the authors’ wildly different perspectives, which develop a fuller picture as to how the body and mind can be understood.
I read Descartes’ text first, in keeping with the fact that this text was written centuries before Todd’s work. This difference in age of the works is especially significant and evident when reading Descartes. In “Meditation VI”, there is a focus on understanding the mind and its relationship to reality; yet, Descartes has a continual focus on God as a force in making sense of the mind. This was highly unusual to me as I was reading from the perspective of a human being in 2014; when the mind and body is discussed in present-day there tends to be a focus on indisputable facts and science rather than religion as an explanation. Thus, Descartes’ discussion of the mind appeared to be more abstract, fitting in with his perspective as a philosopher. “Meditation VI” was often difficult to understand in its language, as it is formatted much like a thought process with the text progressing like Descartes’ own mind grappling with the ideas he is exploring. However, there were moments of strong clarity; the sixth section of his text was especially crucial to my understanding of his work. In this passage, he discusses his perceptions: concrete, such as that “I perceived that I had a head, hands, feet and other members composing that body which I was considered as part, or perhaps even the whole, of myself”, and the ambiguously abstract, such as “light, colors, odors, tastes, and sounds.” At the conclusion of this section, it seemed as if Descartes had begun to realize the fallibility of the mind as it conjures perceptions without his actual consent or control. He further develops this as the text progresses, settling on in the final sentence of his meditation, that “we must, in conclusion, acknowledge the weakness of our nature.” Thus, the essence of Descartes’ argument is that our mind influences our body but this mind is also weak and subject to error, and that remaining aware of these flaws can improve our mind and relationship to our body.
Unlike Descartes’ work, Todd’s “The Thinking Body” has a different goal in mind and works towards achieving this goal through distinct methods. While Descartes’ methods are abstract, Todd focuses almost entirely on the concrete, using hard science as the details and evidence to her claims. There is a similar focus on the body and the mind; however this text grants greater insight into the body than Descartes. Todd demonstrates what composes our body and how everything is related to each other; no individual system is actually separate from each other. Like Descartes, there is an attention to conscious control of the body, yet Todd states in order for that to happen, “We must understand its materials and their functions and behavior.” In order to meet this goal, Todd considers how the body is strong rather than weak. The skeleton forms the structure for the body, the muscles allow movement, and the nervous system interacts with the mind to keep the body alive and safe. The body is inherently connected to nature in the past, present, and future as evolution has produced the human beings we see today that are so different from a bird or a fish. Thus, to Todd, our bodies are composed of complicated structures and processes centuries in the making; and we must be conscious of every part of the body’s history.
Consciousness: this is the greatest similarity in these two works and what makes it so important to consider them together. One can look at the body and the mind from the most abstract of perspectives or the most detailed scientific processes available; the importance is that one looks at the body and the mind. We can simply go through life never considering how we live, and to both of these authors, that would be a waste.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
7 September 2014
“Meditation IV” and The Thinking Body
After reading “Meditation IV” written by Descartes, I noticed that the piece primarily focuses on the imagination and how it is not only a property of the mind, but the body as well. While there is a distinction between the two, there is also a connection. When a person is hungry, thirsty, tired, etc. the body is affected. I think it is interesting how the mind can work closely with the body by telling it when each correlating action needs to be performed. Descartes mentions, “in truth, all these sensations of hunger, thirst, pain, etc., are nothing more than certain confused modes of thinking, arising from the union and apparent fusion of mind and body” (Meditation VI). He even mentions at one point that nature is susceptible to errors. While this article was difficult to follow at times, I thought that certain parts were really fascinating. I never thought too deeply into how the body and mind work together so closely.
Within the first chapter of The Thinking Body by Todd, the body is emphasized in its relation to the mind. Differing from Descartes, Todd explores more of the physical aspects of the body. It even talks about the different forms of the bodies and how they differ. For instance, Todd first describes the life and structure of the fish in the water. It then goes into detail about how the body has developed over the many years. More related to the mind, the article talks about behavior. She talks about the movement of body parts (arm or leg), and mentions, “the wisdom lies not in the man’s “command” but in the various systems cooperating with the neuromuscular mechanism to establish right conditions” (9 Todd). All the different parts of the body work together to help the body perform even the simplest of actions.
Both articles can be both compared and contrasted. For example, the articles both discuss the body and the mind and how they both are connected. But, both articles differ in how the mind and body are connected. I think that these articles are important to read because they give details of how the mind works with the body in order for it to function.
September 8, 2014
Critical Response: “Meditation IV” and “Food Meditation”
The readings this week from Descartes “Meditation IV” and Todd from The Thinking Body and “Food Meditation” allowed me to think about the body, our mind, and how they work together through thoughts and movements.
Descartes “Meditation IV” allowed me to think about the imagination, and how we think and perceive the world in different ways. In this reading, I thought about how the mind thought and how we use that information to think about the world around is and ourselves in it. People have the power to think about themselves differently than how others may see them. Their perceptions differ about themselves, simple objects, situations, anything. How we think about things is based upon our own thinking where “this power of imagination […] differs from the power of conceiving, is in no way necessary to my [nature or] essence, that is, to the essence of my mind; for although I did not possess it, I should still remain the same that I am now, from which is seems we may conclude that it depends n something different from the mind.” Thinking about this quote, I can infer that every mind has the ability to use its imagination in different ways. The body works with the mind to feel emotion, pain, sound, touch, but what the imagination does with these things is passed on the perception of the person. An object can trigger a thought or feeling which can be connected or stimulated by the imagination and mind of a person. Another person may experience a different reaction to the same object. Thinking about the body and how we perceive it, connects to this experience.
The second reading, The Thinking Body by Todd connected with the ability of the mind which allowed me to think about the body and its movements. Our minds communicate with our bodies to make movements. Our bodies provide for use the ability to move and be humans; thinking and moving about the world. Every living being’s “body carries its meaning and tells its own story, standing, sitting, walking, awake, or asleep. It pulls all the life into the face of the philosopher, and sends it all down into the legs of the dance.” This quote allowed me to think about the body’s movements. If people were unable to move, everyone would remain in the same positions. No one would be able to experience their favorite sports, or even participate in a hobby like sowing if they were not able to provide their bodies with the movements to perform these activities. Our bodies are built to function in certain ways to allow us the freedom to move. Awake or asleep, our minds and bodies are always at work. The bodies function has adapted over time to allow us the movement and posture we do to allow us to move about freely.
Both of these readings have assisted me with thinking about the human body and how it moves, as well as thinking about the human mind and its imagination. The body and mind allows for the person to think and move in ways that work for the individual allowing them ability to think and move on their own, in their own ways. This provides the body and the mind to work together to make an individual think and move about in a certain way for them to be able to go about an activity.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
"Meditation VI" and "The Thinking Body"
In the Meditation VI reading, "Of the Existence of Material Things, and of the Real Distinction between Mind and Body of Man," I was particularly interested in the ideas about imagination and the imaginative faculty. When I think of imagination, I associate it with creativity because it seems that someone more creative would have a more complex or eclectic imagination. This author seems to be stating something else. "I find that it is simply a certain application of the cognitive faculty ( facultas cognoscitiva) to a body which is immediately present to it, and which therefore exists." According to this quote, the body is responsible for imagination. That made me think harder about my previous statement about creativity and imagination. Everyone who has a body can have an imagination. The thoughts we get lost in throughout the day and how we perceive others and the world are us, is all part of our imagination. The beauty of being human is that we have a mind that works this way. We have a rational faculty to get us through life, making decisions, moving our bodies from one place to another, but then we have our imaginative faculty where we can think deeply and create.
While the author is breaking down the senses and how the coincide with imagination, I liked this part of the author's thoughts. "I perceived further, that that body was placed among many others, by which it was capable of being affected in diverse ways, both beneficial and hurtful; and what was beneficial I remarked by a certain sensation of pleasure, and what was hurtful by a sensation of pain." People are physically build the same with hands, feet, a head, etc. But the amazing part of all this, is that we feel everything differently. Like the authors says, something that would hurt me, might not hurt you. I knew this, but having it worded this way and being about to visually see the words stating it, made this idea resinate with me. Our perceptions of everything it seems, are all together different even though we are all together human.
I was interested in "The Thinking Body"right from the beginning. All our actions are a result of feeling. Again, as I said before, I knew this but never really thought it out before. I made me think about myself and how I handle situations or respond to people to try and detect the emotion behind it. I am a waitress and I feel that most of my responses to customers are purely rational and removed, in the sense that I am not emotional involved with these people. Todd speaks about a muscle change, a physical movement or change recording our emotional thinking. I realized that I stand taller with the customers that I like and lean in a little more warmly is I can't hear what they are staying. The customers that I do not like, or have been rude to me in the past, I walk over to them more slowly and hunch a bit in my shoulders. Also like I'm ready for another verbal assault. As much as I would love to say I am not emotionally involved with my job, it seems as though my body is giving a direct response, as Todd states, to the people around me, thus exposing, in a way, my emotions
8 September 2014
Response to “The Thinking Body” and “Meditation VI”
I enjoyed reading Descarte's “Meditation VI” and Mabel Elsworth Todd's “The Thinking Body” as a set. I feel as though they shared common themes while also providing contrast really well with “The Thinking Body” focusing on the anatomy and physiology and the movement of the human body and “Meditation VI” focusing on the mind and imagination and how they are connected to the body.
I was interested in Descarte's focus on the mind and imagination. I had not considered comparing imagination and intellect as he does while using the analogy of the triangle and chiliogon; however, imagination is a form of intelligence. It allows one to create different scenarios for a situation, create new worlds, and it possesses no limits. Imagination is also deeply intertwined with memory, which is discussed in the readings. We imagine and create new things based on previous experiences and knowledge. Our past really does guide our future. Imagination and memory are very powerful tools that would leave people lost if we were forced to be without them.
Although imagination creates positive things, it can also cause pain and anxiety. When a person thinks positive thoughts, they are generally happy and feel good. When negative thoughts overpower, anxiety can set in and a person my get headaches, stomach aches, and will generally not feel well. The mind also creates pain. How many times have you not noticed a bruise, but once you know its there, it starts to hurt? This leads to the claim that the body and mind are connected. Decarte states, “Nature likewise teaches me by these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst, etc., that I am not only lodged in my body as a pilot in a vessel, but that I am besides so intimately conjoined, and as it were intermixed with it, that my mind and body compose a certain unity.” Neither the body nor the mind can exist without the other. They send off signals to each other when certain functions such as sleeping and eating are required to keep the body functioning efficiently. These functions are the unconscious, vegetative processes discussed in “The Thinking Body.”
While Descarte focuses on the unconscious interaction between the mind and the body, Todd focuses on the conscious, active interaction between the mind and the body, namely movement. I found it really interesting the amount of energy used for conscious movement. Todd states, “... Only 15 percent of the total energy is available for conscious purposes; 85 percent is used in vegetative processes—heart action and so on. This leaves us only 15 percent with which to do the work of the world.” While the author does address that these numbers can change depending on various situations, these are normal levels. I had never considered this before, and I find it amazing that 85 percent of our energy goes towards our bodies and minds communicating with us having no control over it. It is a strange concept that we believe we are in complete control of our bodies and we can do so much with them, yet we do not control the majority of it.
While reading “The Thinking Body,” I became increasingly amazed at how the human body works. One line that really stood out to me was, “The reactions of all parts are so coordinated and integrated by several different factors, chemical, physical and nervous, that we perceive the individual as a whole rather than as a collection of parts.” The body can be broken down into numerous systems and every part of the body performs a different task, yet we only see one whole body. I do not often sit back and think about these topics, but when I start to, it leads to a whole train of thought. I start to think of evolution, and I wonder how each organ system became so intricate and detailed and how they all work together to create a living being with conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions. It truly is awe inspiring.
Seminar in Writing Studies: Rhetorical Bodies
Descartes and Todd
At this point most if not all of the class should know that Descartes is famous for the phrase "I think therefor I am". While our reading of his Meditation VI Of The Existence Of Material Things, And Of The Real Distinction Between The Mind And Body Of Man highlighted what he meant by that, it also brought to mind the phrase "I read therefor I'm slightly confused". While reading Descartes always feels relatively similar to eating a hefty meatloaf, his conclusion is sound. By being able to holistically connect all facets of the mind; including sensations such as pain, perceptions, reason, and logic, Descartes concludes what is real and present. Comparing the objects of imagination; his envisioned chiliogon or specters that can vanish without leaving a trace against corporeal objects which enact all of his sense, Descartes comes to one conclusion. "if, after having called together all my senses, my memory, and my understanding for the purpose of examining the, no deliverance is given by any one of these faculties which is repugnant to that of any other: for since God is no deceiver, it necessarily follows that I am not herein deceived" ( Descartes, 24). In summation all of his faculties confirm to him what he originally concluded, while his body is connected to his imagination it is not a figment of his imagination. Instead these functions work similarly to a clock, each piece making the entire body tick and metaphorically tell the time.
Similarly to Descartes metaphor, our second reading by Mabel Elsworth Todd The Thinking Body makes the same connection about the body and the mind. "We now realize that in the physical economy of the individual the many systems should be working in balance and unison and that thinking is a very part of their activity" ( Todd, 3). These metaphors give Descartes’ famous phrase a bit more weight. It is not just the act of thinking that makes the being exist; it is everything within the thought that makes the being exist. These readings are also similar to our first reading by Irene Levy in which she’s calls to attention all the pieces of our body that our connected. By having us focus on our lungs she makes us realizes all of the other facets of our body that our connected in our body, and from their all of the connections that make up our lives in order for us to be in the moment.
These three readings though seemingly disconnected, are as connected as our lungs are to our bodies and our minds to our imaginations. It only takes a moment of contemplation and speculation to see the similarities. As Descartes said about feelings being muddled thoughts, it’s only a matter of realizing what is being perceived and using it to come to a logical conclusion. I believe that is what much of this class is going to be about. Being presented with what has become normalized by cultural constructs and then unpacking it and perceiving it through a different lens in order to come to a more logical conclusion.
While reading both Meditation VI and the Thinking Body I noticed that both authors focused on the connection between that of the body and the mind. They both talk a lot about the imagination and the affect that it can have on the body. I never really thought about the connection between the two before. Generally I think of the mind as a separate subject from the body but I know they are both in fact connected. The points they made actually made me think more about all of the connections that there are between the two.
Descartes mentions in one part of his writing how he perceived the different parts of his body and how the world around him affects his body. He mentions all of the different senses that the body has to help people to perceive things. How one uses their body in order to better understand the world that is around them. He also mentions the affects that emotions can have on the body. He mentions at one point that people do not entirely have control over either the mind of the body. The way that things are perceived in the mind is not necessarily with consent from the person thinking about them. He talks about how the ideas of things are presented to people and they have no choice but to accept them. We are constantly registering all of the different things around us whether we are actually focusing on them are not. We always know whether we are hungry or in pain no matter what we are doing. I understood that there was a connection between the mind and the body but I never really took the time to figure out exactly how deep that connection is. I know that even as I am thinking about these readings I am physically sitting in a chair and that my body feels tired. I know that there are people surrounding me going about the business of their day. I know all of these things based on the connection between my mind and my body.
Todd talks about the fact that the mind has control over that of the physical body. Everything that one’s body does is controlled by the mind of that person. He mentions that we are constantly thinking no matter what our body is doing. We may tell our body what to do but even as we do that we are also always thinking. Bodies tell stories that our minds can take in through our senses and register. A lot of times people use their bodies in order to tell other people a story. Whether it is the way that they are dressed or the way that they are standing or even the expression on their face. The bodies tell a lot more to people’s minds then people actually think they do.
I found that the first reading “Meditation” by Descartes reminded me very much of the reading we discussed in the first class period. Reading it made me more aware of my own body and interactions that I have on a daily basis. I found the reading to be a bit much to digest all at once, as it is quite long and covers a broad spectrum within its length, however, I found it to be enlightening nonetheless.
I enjoyed part 19 in which the separation of mind and body are discussed. It is stated that the mind is mainly considered to be a whole. When it comes to the body, we could do without a foot, or even a leg, but there isn’t really a comparable situation with the mind. I had never compared the mind and body in this way, and I found it very interesting. Does this stem from the fact that the way we perceive our minds is merely abstract while the body is a concrete being? Or could it be because we only know our own mind, and if it were missing a “foot” or “leg” of the mind we simply wouldn’t know the difference?
The Thinking Body reading is also interesting – it opens right up by addressing the way in which we judge total strangers based upon their outward appearance / posture / body language / etc. This is something that we all do every day but I’ve never considered it in the sense that their appearance is a good indication of who they are inwardly due to the correlation between their internal functions and outward appearances. Negative feelings will trigger a more negative outward appearance.
I feel as though these two readings worked very well together because they both focused upon awareness of the body. While The Thinking Body is more scientific than Meditation, they follow a similar premise. I think that this is a positive foundation to build upon as we explore the rhetoric of bodies in this class. I assume that in future classes we will be faced with quite a bit about what the body could be, should be, what people would like it to be, and what people dislike about it, but for now we are just looking at what it is. It is a vessel for our minds, for our feelings, and for our actions.
I had wifi trouble this morning too so my apologies for being a bit late!
September 10, 2014
In the two readings from “Rhetorical Bodies” the writers write about their ideas on how bodies are viewed rhetorically. The parts of these reading that I focused more on were how the writers wrote about how certain bodies are judged and how the judging on bodies is changing/ continuing. The introduction focuses on several body types while the afterword focuses on body types by gender.
The part of the introduction that really caught my attention at first was Hottentot Venus and the real-life mascots. Hottentot Venus actually disgusted me. I feel like putting a cut up dead corpse on display for the public is almost inhumane. I understand that it was all for “science” however I think it was wrong. The real-life mascots intrigued me because I didn’t realize that they used dwarves and hunchbacks I thought that they just had people dress up like they do today and not have people looked at like freaks and treated like servants. Those two parts did catch my attention but there was one quote that stuck out to me, “As postmoderns have come to challenge the centering of subjectivities in the mind, the body has naturally become more a focal point of rhetorical inquiry”. Now, I could be reading this completely wrong but I think that this is about how back then people felt the same way on bodies and what was normal or not. But today people have other influence and now there is more of a debate on what a perfect or ideal body looks like, and everyone views bodies in completely different ways then they have in the past.
I found the afterword a lot more interesting than the introduction. The first thing that caught my eye was the passage that Crowley quoted and which she followed it with the statement, “A women’s worth has been measured through their bodies”. I agree people are so quick to judge a female based solely on her looks. The next piece that stuck out to me was, “Negatively charged culture constructions of women’s bodies are both dangerous and fragile have force women to become highly conscious of their bodies”. There could be no truer statement than that. Society is always telling females that they must look a certain way and its constantly changing. Before skinny was vied on how a woman should look but now with the music industry so into butts and curves girls who are skinny are looked down upon. Although curves are then ideal look those curves can only be in a woman’s bottom or breasts but not the stomach, so still over weight girls are struggling. I do not think women should be ever judged on their body however a woman she be motivated to take care of herself. But once a girl feels uncomfortable with her body they can lower into a depression rather than take control and work towards a change. A women’s body will always be a conflicting battle thanks to society. Unfortunately I do not think it will ever change.
I found both the forward and the afterward to Rhetorical Bodies to be informative as far as what the book is actually referring to with the phrase “rhetorical bodies”. I preferred the afterward to the forward, however. I think I found it both more captivating, as the forward contained a lot of chapter summary, and more relatable than the forward. The afterward focused a great deal on women, and being a woman I could automatically relate to the content matter.
Page 358 contains an excerpt written in 1971 which served as an awareness raising exercise for men. It details things that women must do in their everyday lives. This included keeping their knees together, being aware of what they were wearing at all times, and maintaining a blank expression whenever men walked nearby. These are things that are still very much a part of women’s realities today. The body that one inhabits has direct results upon the life that they live and the politics of their interactions. Whether one inhabits a male body or a female body dictates the way that certain people may treat them. It is the same way with attractiveness, if one is the society’s definition of attraction they will have different interactions than those who are not.
The afterward also discusses in detail the forced separation of the sexes. This is an example of society forcing people into the category of “normal-bodied” by creating a rigid mold of sex which people must fit into or be treated as an outsider. The fact that this is even a thing is kind of mind-boggling. Everyone is different. How can there be bodies that are “right” and bodies that are “wrong”? Bodies are judged by society and labeled as countless things- mostly adjectives that attribute nothing to the mind or soul inside the body. It really is sad that this is the way that we judge most people who we meet right off the bat. As we discussed a little in class, it is a survival skill to assess safety, but it has progressed far past that. Often we (and I am no exception) judge who we want to date, befriend, or work with based solely on appearance of the body and give no chance to those whose bodies we do not find pleasing. It’s a sad way for society to function.
September 10, 2014
Critical Response: “Rhetorical Bodies” Intro & Afterward Selzer and Crowley
The readings from “Rhetorical Bodies” by Jack Selzer and Sharon Crowley have allowed me to think about the rhetorical body and think about the body. The readings allowed me to make a connection to something we see every day in sports. The reading places a perspective to the use of material things into a body. The introduction piece discusses the use of mascots in baseball. The use of mascots is to provide a material figure which serves as a good-luck charm for the teams. The mascot serves the purpose of providing the team to satisfy the team players’ superstitions by representing the teams’ spirit and giving a material being to serve as an object for the teams’ name. Although the mascots were not the mascots we are used to seeing today where people are dressed up as a bear or a tiger, the mascots were a way for people with deformities such as a hunchback to be treated as real life mascots and it was seen as a way for people to make fun of them by pointing out their physical differences. I did not know that they used ‘real’ people as mascots; I had always thought mascots were people dressed up as something, like they do today.
The afterword of “Rhetorical Bodies” put a focus on the human body focusing on how the body looks and how it is supposed to act. The reading focused on women and how they are to have a certain look, act and dress a certain way and also express behavior and posture in a way that reflects the particular image of women. How a person looks and dresses is supposed to reflect who they are and what they represent. The main focus was on women. Thinking about today’s society, the “constructions of women’s bodies are both dangerous and fragile have force women to become highly conscious of their bodies.” This statement shows that women today are focused on looking and dressing in the ways as other’s around them to fit the “look”. How people feel within society will reflect upon their bodies as a result of how they will look and dress. The body reflects internal and external perceptions. I think we are a society that is too focused on how a body looks rather than what is made up of. We tend to stereotype a certain look for women who are pregnant, as well for people who are queer or drugged. We have a certain perception of how these people are supposed to look within our minds and whenever we see someone that matches this perception, we are quick to believe they automatically fit our definition whether it is true of the person, or not.
9 September 2014
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
In Jack Selzer and Sharon Crowley’s “Rhetorical Bodies”, the main focus seemed to be upon perceptions of bodies and how this is important to rhetoric as a whole. At the start of the introduction, there is a brief discussion of rhetoric and words having an elevated status as of late; that there has been a greater emphasis on rhetoric within all disciplines and that, “Words have been mattering more than matter.” This is especially crucial to consider as the introduction develops into the discussion of bodies as a source of that rhetoric, with Selzer discussing major historical figures’ bodies and their rhetorical discussions that have unfolded as a result. His mention of John Donne imagining “his body as a text” while he was ill was particularly intriguing as this idea suggests that not only does one view their own body in a rhetorical perspective, but so do the others who can read a body from the outside. Thus, a body produces a rhetorical discussion on a daily basis without any deliberate action from the viewer or the viewed; the body is looked at and judgments are made.
Later in the introduction, Selzer writes, “Language and rhetoric have a persistent material aspect that demands acknowledgement, and material realities often (if not always) contain a rhetorical dimension that deserves attention.” This appears to mirror the role the body plays in society: like rhetoric, a body demands acknowledgement and various forces within our society (such as mainstream media like entertainment and advertising) view the body as something to be consumed and thus directs attention towards this body. Therefore, there is a rhetorical dimension surrounding the body in all its forms and this discourse must take place. However, the afterword of “Rhetorical Bodies” highlights the fact that as each body differs so greatly from others, the rhetorical discussion of each body also differs as a result of human experience but also public perception. Crowley states, “discourse is thought to play a role not only in the invention of culture but in the construction of reality as well.” This was particularly troublesome to me as it conjured somewhat of a “chicken and the egg” type of scenario – discourse plays a role in the invention of culture, but culture also affects that discourse. After all, rhetoric is not a new invention even if there is a greater focus placed upon it in modern society. In considering all of this, it had me wondering what invented the culture in the first place, and if it was rhetorical discourse as a major factor or just a bunch of smaller factors to bring us to where we are today? I realize that this is a potentially unsolvable question and many of the works of rhetoric out there delve into a variety of perspectives to attempt to answer that question, but I am still puzzled yet thoughtful about it nevertheless.
In the afterword, the most important portion of the text was the discussion of how the scholarly interest emerged. I was not shocked by the fact that feminists were credited with starting this movement, as in my own experiences I was reluctant or even oblivious to acknowledge my own body until I enrolled in a feminist-based course in my sophomore year of college. Part of being a woman in a patriarchal society means that it is incredibly easy to see how the body is perceived and used by others once the initial spark of awareness or empowerment to do so is granted. This is not to say that men are not faced with similar pressures and situations or that they are unable to discuss bodies in a rhetorical sense, but that people in a place of power or privilege often need not look inward when the society is constantly reassuring and promoting their bodies. Crowley’s focus on feminism and its role in embodied rhetoric was enlightening with one specific quote where she suggests that for women the goal of this rhetorical discourse is to “analyze the public rhetorics that affect women’s lives, not only in the attempt to understand how these are deployed but also in order to intervene in the power relations that produce and sustain them.” I believe this speaks to the ultimate goal of this course in Embodied Rhetoric, and not just in a feminist perspective; we must first observe how bodies are portrayed and discussed but also take action after this evaluation to push against the injustices and inequalities facing the bodies of our world.
Response to Rhetorical Bodies
I found the excerpts from Rhetorical Bodies to be very interesting. Some sections were difficult to get through, such as parts of the introduction, but overall I found myself agreeing and making connections to many of the ideas presented. I liked the various focuses on different types of bodies such as the section on women and the the woman who dramatically dressed her body.
In the section about the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, I found that there are many similarities between the way that she expresses herself through the way she dresses herself and the way people alter their bodies to express themselves today. While most people do not go to the extent that she did (althought the canary was a nice touch), tatoos are becoming increasing popular and more accepted in modern society. Tatoos are an art form that are very beautiful and personal to the individual. Like the Baroness, there are people today who go to extremes in order to express their individuality (i.e the man who tatooed his entire body and sliced his tongue in order to look like a lizard). As long as they are not hurting others, people should be able to express themselves however they see suitable, but as the Baroness most likely received criticism for her appearance, tatoos are not seen as professional and employment can be refused and/or terminated because of them.
Another section of the readings that really captured my interest was the section about women. As a woman, I completely related to complaints about the treatment of women and the standards that they are held to. The quote that really stood out to me was “Walk down a city street. Pay a lot of attention to your clothing; make sure your pants are zipped, shirt tucked in, buttons done. Look straight ahead. Every time a man walks past you, avert your eyes and make your face expressionless.” This passage makes me sad and upset because it is so true. While you don't want to come across as mean and aggressive, you also do not want to come off as nice and too friendly because that could be seen as an invitation. There are mixed messages in the clothing that is sold in stores today, especially to young women ages sixteen to twenty-five (give or take). We are told that in order to be attractive and fit in we must dress a certain way; however, if we dress that way, we are seen as easy. When shopping for summer clothes this year, I found it very difficult to find shirts that were not crop tops. I personally do not feel comfortable wearing them, yet it felt like I was being forced to conform due to the lack of choices.
There are finally laws being passed that define in depth what constitutes as rape and impose stricter punishments for offenders. There are still many people who blame the victim for the assualt. Society tells women that they must dress a certain way or they will be seen as unattractive, but if they become the victim of rape or sexual assault, it is their fault for sending out the wrong message. This can have devastating effects on the self-esteem and mental/emotional health of young girls.
A concept that I thought was strange was “the inside vs the outside of the body” theory. I had a hard time grasping the concept, especially when the idea of cannibalism was brought up. I thought the idea of the organ donor and receiver was interesting, though. I wasn't sure how to react to these concepts, and the cannibalism made me slightly uneasy.
Overall I thought the article was very informative and interesting to read. It introduced many points that I had never considered and aloud me to make connection to similar concepts today.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
In the introduction to "Rhetorical Bodies" I was interested in the many ways that were listed that bodies have been researched and represented. The author mentions mascots, childbirth, control over bodies by the Nazis, sexuality and feminism all in the same page and I was left wanting to know more about all of these examples. As this is the introduction, I am aware that these subjects will be elaborated. It also made me look forward to this class and the many subjects we will be discussing over the course of the semester because this subject of bodies can fall into a range of issues and perceptions.
Last semester I took a seminar with Dr. Scheible about the domestic interior and found I really had an interest in the subject. In all the literature we read, we would always end up discussing feminine and masculine roles as well as sexuality and how it was repressed or accepted in the world of the novel. I found my interest growing in the ideas of feminity and how woman's bodies are represented as a whole. I can see from reading just a few pages of this introduction that gender (obviously) will be coming up a lot. I'm looking forward to discussion on this, but there is so much to be said and so much to figure out.
The afterword section also touches on this. Crowley points out that woman have also been measured what they are worth through their bodies. At first, that idea sounds a bit dramatic but the more I thought about it the more I understood and agreed. She points out about the male gaze and how much room should be left between two people. The idea of public and private space is very interesting, especially in this context, because it seems that woman are effected by this daily. I want to become more aware of how I act in these situations now.
Another part I found interesting was the section about fantasies. Crowley states that fantasies are not just projections of what is going on mentally in someones mind but it is always a way to cope with how the person feels about their identity. (Hopefully I am understanding this correctly). If this is the case, then I have never heard fantasies described this way before. But it makes sense. When I think of fantasies, I think of the imagination at work, producing images or thoughts about something that could happen to the person imagining or something they would like to happen. Of course, it is always in direct correlation to them as a person, since it's coming from their brain. But I guess what Crowley is saying, is that while the imagination is at work, the body is also being represented in the mind and how the person perceives themselves and their identity.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
9 September 2014
Response to Rhetorical Bodies Intro and Afterward
Within a section of the introduction, the author discusses rhetorical bodies within different texts. He mentions how people are viewed in different lights and oven judged based on many different aspects of themselves, including outward appearance. I thought that while this was very useful in explaining material rhetoric as well as how these bodies are judged in society, it was still difficult to read. I thought that the afterward was more fascinating and easier to follow along with.
This second article discusses women in reference to rhetorical bodies. Sharon Crowley mentions, “The assumption that distinct public and private spheres exist, for example animates much contemporary rhetorical criticism of public discourse” (358-359). I really enjoyed reading about this topic of women within the public and private spheres to be very fascinating. I have taken a few other English courses where this topic has come up. We have read text from various years and most mention how women were treated very differently and were seen in the private sphere. This is because they were known to stay home, take care of their house, watch their children, and not work. They couldn’t take a job, support their family, own land, and vote, among many other things. But, that didn’t mean that there weren’t women who tried to fight this. I remember reading poems from women in a time where women were still not supposed to be seen in the public. Since poetry is mostly public, it wasn’t normal for them to be published.
In the past society kept trying to keep trying to separate people based on different characteristics of their bodies, not just whether they are women or men. For example, people are judged and separated based on their sex, race, gender, whether they’re abled or disabled, whole or fragmented, aged or young, fat, thin, or anorexic. This can help explain the body mind continuum. Even though a lot has changed over the years, society still judging people based on material aspects of the self. People should be treated equally, and not how they look.
I thought that it was interesting the way rhetorical bodies started off with a quote warning about the dangers of words. Throughout the piece it talks about the way that various artists and people have used their bodies to speak words. The quote at the beginning seems to be specifically referring to the spoken word but the references after that seem to be saying that the spoken word is not the only thing that someone has to worry about. There are various other ways to express what someone is trying to say without actually speaking but instead using the body to express what they were trying to say. I thought it was interesting how various people actually inscribed verses of their poetry and other things on themselves to give a literal sense to the meaning a body of work. They were able to shock people and let them know what they had to say without actually having to say anything at all. It also has examples of poetry that people have written where they talk about their bodies like a tangible thing. This article brings about the problem of stereotypes and judging people based off of the way that they look. The article is basically explaining that there is a lot more to worry about than just the spoken word. This article shows the many ways that bodies can be used to make a point too.
In the Afterword article the author expresses how difficult it was to try and stay on the point that they were trying to make about bodies because there is just so much information about bodies. There has been so much research and ideas about how to interpret the body. I actually enjoy the fact that the author delved into so many different realms of the body. It helps to show just how complex the entire subject is and it was interesting to learn all of the different aspects that can be used when interpreting the body. There are loads of ways that bodies can be interpreted based on various kinds of art such as sculptures and poetry and writings about the body. At one point the author talks about focusing on pressing your knees together while trying to have a conversation with someone or trying to run a certain distance. It gave another exercise of making sure that your clothes are properly tucked, zipped and buttoned. It said to pay attention to what other people are doing and be aware of yourself at all times. Most people do not pay that much attention to what their body is doing at all times. Specifically paying attention to these things made me realize just how much information one’s body can give to someone. It is interesting to think about all of the ways that others and yourself can interpret the different actions and things that your body does. Bodies are actually an extremely complex structure that can help people learn a lot about themselves and other people and the way that they work. These articles definitely got me to thinking more about these concepts.
Rhetorical Bodies Foreword and Afterword
As an anthropology minor I am always pleasantly surprised when anthropology is mentioned in texts we are reading for class. As the study of peoples and culture, anthropology can be found wherever there is culture; from the television we watch to the language speak. This is due to the fact that culture is symbolic. We learn culture from the symbols presented to us every day through body language and speech. Language is composed completely of symbols; these symbols shape the meanings behind our cultural structure. On page four of “Habeas Corpus” by Jack Selzer he begins to describe the influence that words can have on culture, the body specifically. Words alone can literally shape the human figure. We look towards editorials and blogs to find the latest diets and fashions advice in order to appropriately navigate society. One extreme circumstance of this is the Hottentot Venus “the infamous public exhibits in London and Paris of Saartjie Baartman, the so called “Hottentot Venus” (her original name has been lost), became a ground for the way sexual differences between “virtuous” European and “corrupt” African women were imaged and inscribed for more than a century”. (Selzer 5). By today’s standards this is barbaric; however, to some degree we participate in the sport of body shaming and comparison in order to shape what we believe to be the “norm”.
Rhetoric plays a massive part in this sport. By projecting this “norm” to a wide audience from a young age, the “policing” of the “norm” and “not norm” as Sharon Crowley phrases it, is very easy. Since our entire culture is made up of language, it is only logical to conclude that our culture is also made up of rhetoric. This rhetoric is the structure that helps found that basis of our perceived norms and society’s definition of what the body should be.
Both of these tie in very well with several anthropology classes that I’ve taken and am currently enrolled in this semester. I am currently enrolled in seminar called “female Sexuality” and we are currently discussing the power behind cultures influence on women’s bodies. The power behind engrained ideals that are seemingly the norm is very much like idea’s mentioned in both Selzer’s foreword and Crowley’s afterword. The presentation of these texts also gives a better idea to how influential rhetoric can be in everyday society, even on ourselves. Much like the breathing exercise we did in the first class, everything is connected and has influence on every facet of society.
Critical Response 1
Both of the readings for this week contain some interesting points regarding the mind-body relation. Descartes Mediation XI and Mabel Todd’s The Thinking Body offer two distinct view points on the human body. While Descartes tends expound on the body in relation to the habitually thinking mind, Todd’s work goes into great depth discussing the evolution and necessity of bodies. Both of them acknowledge a key function of the body (Descartes more explicitly); The human body will do what it can to avoid any sort of pain. Descartes meditates on the function of hunger, thirst, and pain. He questions why we, as humans, would have to experience such negative feelings if we are meant to be made in the image of God. He concludes that, because “God is no deceiver”, these feelings must be beneficial to mankind to some degree. I have often questioned this in my own life, in a similar way to Descartes. Not so much at an innate biological level, as he tends to do. I’ve always thought it strange to have such an evolved mind, yet become physically deteriorated by negative thoughts and emotions. I mean this both in the sense of the passive and active reactions to negative emotions. Where in one sense a person may feel sorrow and as a result feel tense or dizzy, a similar person may feel sorrow and commit suicide. Perhaps it is an individual’s reaction to the initial pain which leads them to further action upon it. Where one person may feel the dizziness and tension with a notion of acceptance, the other one may choose to fight against the feeling, to the point of self-inflicted physical pain. This must be what Todd is attempting to communicate when she quotes Dr. Williams and writes “ The intelligence of an individual may be determined by the speed in which he orients himself to a new situation” But with my original point of discussion, it is very odd to think that we as a species can be impacted by emotions so strongly. One would think, with the abilities to control electricity and conquer gravity through our technological advances, our race could survive the breakup of a romantic relationship. Perhaps this is similar to what Todd writes about the evolution of humanity. As a species we have adapted over time to the environment, as a response to better ourselves. Maybe we are undergoing a stage right now of dealing with this emotional pain, only to evolve beyond it, as our aquatic ancestors adapted to land. It is miraculous to think of the perfection of the human body, that Todd illustrates in such detail. Every part of the body responds to other parts of the body in such a flawless and effortless fashion. You put your hand near a flame, you feel the pleasure of the heat, as a response you consciously decide to move closer, you feel the pain of the heat, as a response you move back; This is done until you achieve a healthy medium. The same thing happens for the body, unconsciously always maintaining homeostasis, manipulating inner-energy for the betterment of survival.
Critical Response 2
In this weeks reading of the introduction and afterword of Rhetorical Bodies I found a few very interesting points being brought up. Some that I think most people are afraid or too uncomfortable to examine. The quote that truly struck me was in Sharon Crowley’s afterword, entitled “The Material of Rhetoric”, when she references Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. She writes: “This is one reason why the enactment of ethnic and racial hatreds in war or other violent episodes often involves rape and torture. The aim is not merely to inflict pain, but actually to eradicate the enemy’s subjectivity by invading, harming, and even erasing his or her body (Scarry).
In relation to the mind ←→ body continuum discussed throughout the piece, this observation on the nature of violence to others shows that our minds can be very dangerous tools. As you relate people tend to relate their body to their actual identity they become attached to this idea of themselves. When they identify themselves as a gender or a race, or an ethnicity, or any other society-backed label, they can then look around at the other human beings in the world and notice the opposite in them. She discusses how this could, and usually does, create a “fear of others” within people. She then goes on to correlate this fear with the extreme acts of violence seen in war.
Upon further thought of this observation, I came to conclude that every war is a result of this relationship between the mind and the body. Every war ever fought, or that ever will be fought, is nothing more than a fear of others and an identification with the mind’s identification of the body. Thinking even further, I can conclude that almost every altercation with someone is based on this relation between the mind and the body. Everybody seems to be fighting for some identity they have created for themselves based of the labels assigned by society and reinforced by the individual.
It is not someone’s label of being white, black, or Hispanic that causes any sort of tension between the others, however, it is the individual’s identification with that said label, as well as the stereotypes and history attributed to it. Everybody, no matter what labels have been placed on them, is in a constant struggle between who they truly are and who they are expected to be. Women used to have to dress as males to gain a position in the professional world and to this day homosexuals are judged and segregated to some extent. By stepping beyond the black and white labels of right and wrong, we can see that we are all much more alike than our minds would like to make us believe. Obviously women strive to be in a professional situation the same way men do. Also it is preposterous to think that homosexual’s love any different than heterosexuals do. Rather than creating war on the differences that the mind creates, it would be wise, as a society, to recognize each person as similar, as we all struggle with the mind ←→ body continuum crisis of label identification.
Responses to and thoughts about course readings