Monday, August 16, 2010

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Feminist Perspective; aka Final Paper

In a world of danger, mystery, travel, and ancient ruins, Lara Croft appears as a mirage; beautiful, strong, independent, and completely out of place. She holds her own among a cast of violent and vindictive men who are chasing the very things she is able to capture and defeat with what seems like effortless ease. Lara Croft plays the lead in a movie, and a video game, that would appear fit for a man and all the while maintains her sexual appeal with each scene; after all, what “Tomb Raider” would not do so in tiny, skin tight shorts and matching holsters and tank top, flawless hair and makeup and pursed lips? This combination creates a text that easily lends itself to feminist theory criticism. The boundaries of femininity and masculinity are crossed and challenged by Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and through the lens of feminist theory, one finds that not only is her character multifaceted but she also represents the female ideal of today’s society while performing under the gaze of her sometimes fetishistic male audience.

Simone de Beauvoir states about the myth of the “woman”: “…mythical thought opposes the Eternal Feminine unique and changeless. If the definition provided for this concept is contradicted by the behavior of flesh-and-blood women, it is the latter who are wrong: we are told not that Femininity is a false entity, but that the women concerned are not feminine” (1265). This myth of what a woman should be with regard to feminine behavior is all perpetuating and though it may change slightly over time, it is only a minuscule shift in an otherwise written-in-stone concept. The two sides of such a myth, the physically feminine and the behaviorally feminine, are in conflict in the character of Lara Croft. She is physically feminine, with curves that would stop any passerby and a face and hair to match, but her behavior is inertly masculine. She travels the world in search of ancient relics and danger and is a match for any opponent when a fight is upon her. Her contradictory behavior is what determines the concern in that she looks feminine but cannot truly be considered feminine because she is not meek, quiet, nor passive. Simone de Beauvior’s description of the feminine myth provides a precise reason why, when faced with the character of Lara Croft, the audience finds itself conflicted between identifying with her character and being visually attracted to the body on screen. Not only is the behavior of Croft contradictory and masculine, but she also provides an exciting and dangerous model for a woman to aspire to. As Anne Marie Schleiner explains in her essay regarding gender-role subversion: “Whatever else she may be, Lara does not fit the “bimbo” stereotype. Lara’s character profile is that of a highly educated and adventurous upper-class British woman, as adept at combat techniques as at puzzle solving” (224). Lara crosses the boundaries of male and female stereotypes and both sexes can identify with and look up to her character. Even though she is physically stunning, her physical beauty does not overshadow her mental and behavioral appeal therefore making her appealing to both male and female audiences on much more than a visual level.

The sight of Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft on screen propelled her into super stardom, even further than she had previously achieved, if that is possible. Jolie embodies Lara Croft in both physical attributes and off screen bravery and accomplishments, but her ability to completely become the character in Tomb Raider brought the visual appeal to a higher level. In her essay on visual pleasure in cinema, Laura Mulvey,while describing the feminist view point on a male- pleasure centered film industry, contends that: “It takes as its starting-point the way film reflects, reveals, even plays on the straight, socially established interpretation of sexual difference which controls images, erotic ways of looking and spectacle” (2084). As Croft, Angelina is clearly “female” and she plays into the visual appeal for the male audience by never once stepping out of the sexually appealing role. She wears clothing that no male character in the same circumstances would wear and portrays the socially determined female ideal as it is formulated in the male gaze. If she were standing on stage doing absolutely nothing, her visual appeal would not be changed. This appeal is further described by Schleiner: “Lara Croft is seen as the monstrous off-spring of science: an idealized, eternally young female automaton, a malleable, well-trained techno-puppet created by and for the male gaze” (222). The originally computer generated, idealized character of Croft is brought to life by Jolie and her proportions, though seemingly non-human, go unchanged in the cross-over which furthers the visual appeal by making the impossible-possible. By considering her a “monster of science” one takes a step back from reality, which may be comforting, but still, there she is, on screen, in the human flesh that cannot be escaped.

Lara Croft’s physical appeal on the film screen is not the only aspect of arousal that her character’s creator employs. The character also encourages both the male and female audience members to identify with her and aspire to be like her. By identifying with the character on screen, a separation occurs between finding the character physically arousing and finding one’s self in the character, otherwise considered identifying with the ego. This separation is described by Mulvey: “Thus, in film terms, one implies a separation of the erotic identity of the subject from the object on the screen (active scopophilia), the other demands fascination with and recognition of his like. The first is a function of the sexual instincts, the second of ego libido” (2088). The feminist appeal of such a character as Croft is that despite her obvious physical appeal, she has attributes that represent a strong, independent, and self-driven woman. She does not fit the stereotype of woman that is repressed and held down by the oppressive male nor does she allow for the audience to place her in a victim role, as many female roles in movies occur. The male audience members can identify with her in the most juvenile, basic way, that is, by placing themselves in the role of action hero.

The idea of Croft as a fetishistic object does not require a stretch of the imagination; with her standard “tomb raiding” outfit that carries over from the preceding video game, she fits into the dominatrix type of model that is found in male fetish fantasy. This fantasy fulfillment is a branch of Mulvey’s concept of scopophilia: “The second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself
…Fetishistic scopophilia…can exist outside linear time as the erotic instinct is focused on the look alone” (2091). Mulvey explains that just the act of looking at the character, in this case Croft, fills the fetishist’s need. The act of looking at the character is satisfying of the desire and because the film is separated from the character there is no need for a realistic timeline or structure, which differs from the sadist or voyeuristic acts of fetish fulfillment outside of film. Freud’s concept of fetishism has its foundation in the Oedipus concept, which can be directly linked to Croft’s character through the aspects of her personality and actions. The masculine aspects of Croft’s character make the idea of her “castration” even more believable than with other female characters. Freud explains: “When now I announce that the fetish is a substitute for the penis…I hasten to add that it is not a substitute for any chance penis, but for a particular penis that had been extremely important in early childhood but had later been lost” (842). In Freud’s concept the loss of the penis, most likely the mother’s penis, is a tragedy for the male and the sorrow and confusion is sometimes expressed through a developed fetish. By identifying Croft as the fetish object and in turn possibly identifying her with the mother certain characteristics are amplified. These characteristics would be her strength, consistency, and mental superiority which make her more than just a visually appealing female for the fetish holder and give her mothering type aspects as seen through the young son’s eyes. The multiple aspects of personality of the character allow for different avenues of fetish fulfillment.

The female lead role in film can be portrayed in a multitude of ways, but in this case, it is a positive, empowering portrayal of a female successfully existing in a male dominated world. For the feminist theorists, the drawbacks are in her amplified sexual appeal physically, as described by Schleiner: “Some feminists view Lara the female Frankenstein monster…permitted to develop unrealistic ideals of female body type…” (223). The idea of creating an unrealistic ideal is valid, yet the numerous positive aspects of the character’s actions outweigh the repercussions of such an ideal, so that to condemn her for her physicality alone is to fall short. The genre of film itself provides the necessary fodder for a more positive than negative feminist viewing of the character. Jolie as Croft becomes an archetypal heroine, such as described by Mizejewski in her essay, “Dressed to Kill: PostFeminist Noir”: “Polished, buff, and confident in male milieu, these most recent heroines seem likely to be included in what Charlotte Brunsdon has described as “the Hollywood cast of postfeminist characters,” along with the girls heroine of romantic comedy, horror’s Final Girl, and melodrama’s monster career woman” (122). As a boundary crossing heroine, Jolie, like a handful of other female action actresses, can be identified as neither solely male nor female with regard to heroism but both. Male and female audience members are transfixed by her onscreen antics and are more likely to find her appealing than a female in a more feminine role in a different genre of film. Mizejewski continues: “The crime film is a genre in which violence is the central trope of relationships between the sexes and in which the transgressive women, as femme female or female dick, has long served as a register for anxieties about female sexuality and power”(125). The male anxiety over female power is exacerbated when the female lead role is so obviously powerful and male in characterization like in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The violence that occurs in the film between Croft and her opposing male tomb raiders is a perfect outlet for such male anxiety. The combination of visual appeal, “crime” film genre, and a female heroine creates a setup for conflicting feelings for both the male viewer who feels threatened and the feminist viewer who wants to find fault with Croft but cannot because she is so powerful. Her character can be viewed as both positive and negative by both sexes which provides a uniting factor for the members of the audience.

As a cultural ideal indicator, Lara Croft is both the physical and mental picture of what women of today aspire to be. She has curves and muscles, yet the strongest muscle that she exercises is her brain. The body as an identifier of culture is explained by Susan Bordo: “The body is not only a text of culture. It is also…a practical, direct locus of social control” (2240). In broadcasting the character of Lara Croft for the entire world to see, the standard for physical beauty and the all-around ideal woman is illustrated in a not-so-subtle way. Then place such an ideal in a culture that focuses so much emphasis on the female body, as does United States culture, and the characters in major films become a picture of what the male wants in his female fantasy. Therefore setting a bar for the housewife to live up to in order to satisfy her man, at least, in the minds of many women, even those with normal self esteem and confidence. Judith Butler in “Gender Trouble” examines the idea of an internally determining gender role model, one that’s purpose is to perpetuate the roles in regard to heterosexual obligations. She explains: “In other words, acts, and gestures, articulated and enacted desires create the illusion of an interior and organizing gender core, an illusion discursively maintained for the purposes of the regulation of sexuality within the obligatory frame of reproductive heterosexuality”(2549). This complete picture created by all that a woman does or depicts becomes what is female, and thus, when done in a film that reaches millions of people, becomes an archetype of femininity. When the concept of such a standard is considered internally set, it becomes even more self perpetuating.

United States culture, especially in areas such as California, has a high ideal for women’s bodies and behavior. This ideal creates for the woman and even the teen, a conflict between what is healthy and good for her body type and what is beautiful as depicted in magazine and on screen. The pressure and disorderly behavior that is employed in striving for the ideal is expressed by Bordo: “Strikingly, in these disorders the construction of femininity is written in disturbingly concrete, hyperbolic terms: exaggerated, extremely literal, at times virtually caricatured presentations of the ruling feminine mystique” (2243). The character of Lara Croft is the exact embodiment of that construction; first a virtual character in a game and then a live, onscreen depiction of said character, her body expressed both in a completely fabricated cartoon and a living person as Jolie. The problem with such high standards is that for any woman living a life outside of those of movie stars, the resources to achieve the ideal are practically non existent. Female empowerment and independence is more and more difficult to achieve with such an all encompassing standard of “success” that is found in the male gaze:
That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex and a true or abiding masculinity or femininity are also constituted as part of the strategy that conceals gender’s performative character and the performative possibilities for proliferating gender configurations outside the restricting frames of masculinist domination and compulsory heterosexuality (Butler 2553).
When the reality of a gender role is as unattainable as the one created by both the character of Croft and the actress Angelina Jolie who plays her, there is no chance for overthrowing the masculine dominance that created such a role in the first place. With each female action hero who wears tight clothing and has larger than life physical attributes, a model of performance is propagated.

Although the role of Lara Croft is visually appealing as well as fulfilling on an ego level, she still is the target of negative feedback from feminists and male insecurities alike. Her exaggerated physicality, though natural and God given to Jolie, is the target for female anxiety and frustration. As she leaps, climbs, and fights her way through the scenes in the move, she transcends the traditional victimized female role in film and crosses over to a male role as well. This aspect of her character allows for identification in the audience members as well as creating an outlet for male fetish fantasy as a dominatrix-style female. A feminist theorist may find fault with the portrayal of Croft as a sexual object, but one cannot deny that she is a woman in power and living life in a male field, which is a positive step towards equality in film roles and in reality. While she is the object of “normal” and fetishistic male fantasy and sets an ideal for today’s women, she still crosses back and forth between the boundaries of male and female roles, and Lara Croft can be viewed as a positive role for feminist theorists.

Works Cited
Beauvoir, Simone de. “The Second Sex.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

Bordo, Susan. “Unbearable Weight.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2240-54.

Butler, Judith. “Gender Trouble.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2540-53.

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company,
2010. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. “Fetishism.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.841-45.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Simon West dir. Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight. Paramount Pictures. 2001. Film.

Mizejewski, Linda. “Dressed to Kill: Postfeminist Noir.” Cinema Journal Vol 44 No 2 (Winter 2005) 121-27. JSTOR. Web. 11 August 2010.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2084-95.

Schleiner, Anne-Marie. “Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games.” Leonardo Vol 34 No 3 (2001) 221-26. JSTOR. Web. 11 August 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kanye West: Unafraid

In recent years, the artist Kanye West has created a controversial atmosphere that overshadows his talent and sometimes causes listeners to turn the dial when his songs come on the radio. A musical genius, West has created countless hits and recorded numerous number one songs as well as been involved in other peoples success by the hundreds. His unrelenting drive and persistence brought him to the top, where he smiled at the world and called himself the best. This fearlessness of being himself is both what has brought him fame and what has brought controversy. Through the lens of Langston Hughes's "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," West is what Hughes may call a "great". Hughes said: " great poet has ever been afraid of being himself" (1192). This is a motto that one could see Kanye West lives by. He is unapologetic for his pride, his boastfulness, his faith in himself as an artist and producer. He has a style that creates followers and rhymes that can contend with other great artists such as Biggie Smalls and Tupac. Although West is unafraid of being himself, he must have faced walls and obstacles on the way to the top, as Hughes describes: "A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people" (1193). West's rise to fame was not quick and easy, as shown in his video, "Through the Wire" which was the first track to become a hit off of his College Dropout album. In this video we see an artist who nearly died in a car accident and had his mouth wired shut in recovery, but we also see a man determined to work hard and create something from the event. Kanye in this video embodies the racial artist that Hughes describes in his essay; one who faces a steep climb to stardom, criticism, and misunderstanding but still creates music and rhymes despite the turmoil.

Works Cited

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Artist and The Racial Mountain." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1192-96.

West, Kanye. "Through the Wire." The College Dropout. Roc-A-Fella Records, 2004. Music Video. via Youtube. 12 August 2010. Web.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Feminist Look at Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The video game turned movie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, is filled with things to pick apart from a feminist perspective, yet it has an appeal that cannot be denied because of the power and strength that Lara Croft displays. The choice of lead actress, Angelina Jolie, adds to the appeal because of her international fame, her do-anything attitude, and her generosity through charity. Unfortunately, her body's proportions fit the mold for the stereotypical male fantasy as well as push the limits between acceptable and down right cartoonistic. Although Lara is a strong, independent, fighting and conquering machine, she still embodies the "feminine" ideal that is inescapable in society. Susan Bordo writes: "...femininity itself has come to be largely a matter of constructing...the surface presentation of the self. We are no longer given verbal descriptions or exemplars of what a lady is or of what femininity consists. Rather, we learn the rules directly through body discourse: through images that tell us what clothes, body shape, facial expression, movements, and behavior are required" (2244). This idea of a bodily constructed feminism is illustrated in Lara Croft's character. She has a more than ample breast, tiny waist, and curvaceous yet muscular bottom half, long hair and a perfect face. Even though her actions are more masculine and her lifestyle is contradictory to the typical female role, she still is the epitome of male visual stimulation. In this way, Bordo's concept is true. Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft is both the ideal visual for men and the picture of power and independence for women. Through the feminist eye, she perpetuates the societal standards that make the normal female diet and exercise to her death.

Works Cited

Bordo, Susan. "The Body and The Reproduction of Femininity." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2240-54.

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Dir. Simon West. Angelina Jolie. Paramount Pictures. 2001. Film.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Glengarry Glen Ross: Capitalist Dehumanization and Marxism

Karl Marx said, in "The Communist Manifesto" that: "The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation" (659). This is illustrated through the brutal dehumanization of the salesmen and families in the "pep talk" scene of Glengarry Glen Ross. As Alec Baldwin's character, the successful sales rep turned executive, completely destroys the self esteem of the three men in the meeting, he also expresses how little family means in the business world. He exhibits not only the above Marx quote but also Freudian concepts of the roles of women and men. The home represents the feminine and also represents the weak and meaningless, while the workplace represents masculine success and drive. In this scene, Baldwin's character never gives himself a name, only uses his belongings to represent himself, such as his watch, his car, and his annual earnings in a dollar amount. When Levine appears maddened and unhappy with the pep-talk, Baldwin's character tells him to "go home and cry to [his] wife." In this exchange, the idea of weak=family/strong=work is expressed. Baldwin's character also tells another worker that if he wanted to be a family man he should go home and play with his kids. In both instances, the value of family is seen as next to nothing, while all value is put on these men selling and becoming monetarily useful. This aspect of the scene portrays the darkest manifestations of the bourgeoisie implications on society. All value is put on what the men own, or what they do not, and what they can do to earn more and become more like Baldwin's character. He places all value on his own possessions and sees these men as completely worthless because they have not shown the drive to be where he is financially. Not only are these men seen as nothing but a means to an end, but the same is true for the "leads" which become only pieces of paper that lead to money, instead of human names and information. This scene is a true depiction of how far capitalism reaches in the minds of men who embrace it.

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Glengarry Glen Ross. Dir. James Foley. Alec Baldwin. Jack Lemmon. New Line Cinema. 1992. Film.

Marx, Karl and Freidrich Engels. "From The Communist Manifesto." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 657-60.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Analyzing A Dream Through Freud's Literary Criticism Theories

This is a dream that has haunted me for quite some time, so long in fact, that I decided to finally write it down. I have kept it to myself up until now. In an attempt to decipher what it means, I will analyze it through Freud's essay "Interpretation of Dreams".

Part 1: The "Gift":

The mall is filled with people, people running, scrambling, falling, screaming. I am huddled against my mother as she holds my head tight against her waist. I squeeze my eyes shut tight; I can’t let them see me, see my eyes especially. We crouch behind a planter near a broken escalator.

Before I tell you anymore, I have to open my eyes for a second.

I keep my eyes moving, darting from body to body at waist level, watching and scanning for them. They are everywhere and then nowhere. No one else knows which is which, who is who, only me. I have been given a gift, cursed really, with special eyes. I close them again, press my face against my mother and whisper to her, “We have to get out; the whole place is going to crash down.” As I say this, two more explosions go off; two planters shatter and spray the air with ceramic and dirt. Screams fill my ears and moaning injured people reach out for and beg for their dying loved ones.

I run with my mom, keeping my eyes on the ground, not daring to look into any faces. Not yet. Explosions are getting closer together and debris is flying everywhere. We run to the parking structure our car is in, we parked in an edge spot and the car next to ours is crushed. The structure looks like it has been toppled with a punch, its frame all buckled. Anyone or anything that was in the three stories is layered like cake and smashed practically flat.

I look around quickly and see their dirty green and grey dirt covered pants as they chase the people who are running out of the mall. Everyone is dying and no one can stop it, no one but me.

I am seven years old to the world but not on the inside, inside I am different, like a 25 year old brain with a 7 year old body. I can see who is dead, who is human, who is undead, who used to be human. Their bodies look human enough; the dirt on their pants and clothes only looks different to me. Their eyes’ milky black pupils only shock me as I glance at them and away, everyone else is too busy running. To the rest of the world, they look like construction workers or gardeners, dirty from a hard day’s work. They do not detect me or know that I can distinguish them from the humans unless we lock eyes. Then they will know that I can see them and they will call their friends and come for me.

It’s time. I have to help these people. I have to run on my own, my mother is in danger and she is slowing me down as well. You see, my eyes are different but that is not my entire gift. I can run. Fast. And I am smarter than the average 7 year old, smarter from an accelerated education and special training but also from memories I don’t know how I have. I am supposed to stop this and save the people, they taught me how; about guns and bombs. They are the doctors and the people who knew about this and who knew I was the answer.

I reach for my mom and pull her to my face, “Go mom. Go. Get into the car and go to dad and get away; go as far as possible and wait.” I run. I run around the entire mall, counting the ones I can see from the dirt around them. As I run, I see dead bodies and torn limbs, much more than I ever wanted to see. I have to get back to the laboratory, to the hospital. I have to get help. I’ll find Dr. Josephs to get the tranquilizer guns and poison tubes; they are the only thing that will kill the mutants.

I am thinking about how to get there fastest when I lock eyes with a tall man crouching down at something, he is one of them. He screeches and laughs while taking long leaps to get to me. He is after me now and is calling friends so I run to the demolished parking structure. I round a corner and roll, crawling among the crushed cars and ruble into darkness. They will not find me here. I slow my breathing to a silent inhale and exhale and close my eyes. They cannot find me without my eyes open so I am safe for a few minutes.

I smell death. I smell human flesh burning. Random cars around me are on fire and I can tell there were people in some of them. I hold back tears and sadness rushes over me in a chill. I hold back the desire to find my mom and dad and to be the 7 year old boy I am on the outside. I find my way out of the tiny space I fit my body into and search the ground for signs of the undead around me. I do not find the greenish gray dirt in little piles that I expect. There are no strips of decaying clothing. This parking structure exploded through the use of car bombs planted before the cars drove in.

They’re everywhere. They are in my neighborhood now, the street I have been playing with my friends in, hiding among the other young boys. No one even knew, not even me. How could this happen?

I run again. I come to the office of Dr. Jospehs. He is sitting and reading at his desk, he must not know that they’ve come back. My heart is pounding against my chest. I walk in and sit, catching my breath for once. I tell him, “The ones you sent away are back. The ones that died all together that day, the ones whose bodies you sent away to space, they have come and are killing everyone. I see the dirt and their rotting clothes. I know their eyes and they know it is me if they catch me looking.”

He replies slowly, “It is time then. It is your time my son. You have the gift and you will save us. I thought it would be later and that you would be older, but now is the time.”

I realize that this is not a choice, whether or not to do this, I have to do this. I have to stop the killing because they won’t stop and they will leave this town quickly and travel.

Dr. Josephs continues, “I knew they would come back here, to this town. This is their home, they have not forgotten.”

“I understand. What should I do now? Tell me what to do.”

“You have to call them to you. You have to bring them together and you have to poison them all. It is the only way. Poison the air and they will be paralyzed for a while when it enters their nostrils and their lungs. Then, you can shoot as many as you can with the poison and it will blacken their blood and they will die. I will come and help you shoot them when they are paralyzed. I will shoot the ones that you cannot get to.”

He tells me about an old school that has been condemned. The auditorium will be big enough to fit them in. I will have to go to the mall and show myself. I will have to let them see my eyes and then they will follow me.

I leave the office carrying so much that I feel like I am running in slow motion even though I still run faster than anyone I know. I run to drop off the supplies at the school and then I head for the mall. The area around the mall is already looking different. People are running through the streets.

I turn my face up and start looking at everyone’s faces. Immediately, I see a few of them gathered around a body. I look into each of their eyes as I run past and into a larger group of people. I look at every single face. One and two and three start to follow me. I yell to them and make sure they can follow me as I run through the crowd. I keep glancing back so they continue to spot my eyes.

I turn and run for the school. They are jumping now and chasing and the group is growing larger. It is working. I hope that the doctor is there and the gas is spreading through the auditorium.

Part 2: The Analysis

Sigmund Freud states that “dream thoughts and the dream-content are presented to us like two versions of the same subject-matter in two different languages” (819). With this thought in mind, an analysis of the above detailed dream must begin by pulling out the most dominant images and thoughts from the dream. In reviewing the dream, one finds the important elements to be: large groups of people, mother and child (absent father), explosions and death including sounds, sights, and scents associated with such images, running, older mind in a younger body (7 year old male main character with a 25 year old, possibly female mind), feeling alone, a great responsibility, and sight/ vision/eye images. If Freud is correct in assuming that the dream is just thoughts and content in a different language than that which one is familiar with, then by drawing out the above mentioned elements, one can see what the dream is trying to explain. By placing multiple science fiction-like images and events in the dream, it becomes much less real in content but by stripping these nonsensical elements away, the inner messages are quite clear. Freud continues: “…in the dream-work a psychical force is operating which on the one hand strips the elements which have a high psychical value of their intensity, and on the other hand, by means of over-determination, creates from elements of low psychical value new values, which find their way into the dream-content” (820). This can be seen in the minimal emphasis that is given to the mother-child relationship and the significance of the age/mind discrepancy in the young boy (without disregarding the fact that the dreamer in this case is a late-twenties female) and instead great focus is given to the zombie-mutants, the destruction they cause, and their physical features. Reversal or transference of the importance of these elements reminds the dream analyst that what is important in the dream may not be important in the dream thoughts.
Not only is it important to extract the elements that should be of importance, but it is also important to pay attention to connections of two things in a dream, according to Freud. He explains: “Whenever [the dream] shows us two elements together, this guarantees that there is some special intimate connection between what correspond to them among dream-thought” (822). With this in mind, another look at the dream-content shows clear connections between the mother and child, a sense of fear, and an emphasis on sight. One can also see connections between what the boy feels inside and how he is on the outside. The discrepancies in the dream are taken into account when Freud says: “The way in which dreams treat the category of contraries and contradictories is highly remarkable. It is simply disregarded” (824). Thus, through Freud’s eyes, the fact that the dreamer is a grown woman and the character she embodies in her dream is a young boy is only important in that it signifies something, not in that it does not make sense. Also, the idea that zombies have taken over the town and the boy has to stop them is of no significance. It only means that this boy feels a great burden of responsibility.
With all of Freud’s theories about dream interpretation in mind, one may draw the conclusion that the dreamer feels that she is older on the inside that the outside, that she has great responsibilities to protect family members and may have a fear of losing loved ones to death or destruction. Along with these ideas, one may conclude that the dreamer feels alone in her responsibility and also feels that many people do not see or choose not to them. Freud would not leave out the connection between the mother and child and the absence of the father in the dream, which is a connection that may be explained through the Oedipus or Electra complexes. Possibly, the dreamer has severed ties with her father figure and has placed both parental roles on the mother to whom she is greatly connected.
Regardless of how one interprets the images or dream content, a review of such a detailed dream reveals and reinforces the fact that Sigmund Freud’s theories are a gift to the world of psychoanalytical thinking.

Works Cited

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. "The Interpretation of Dreams." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 814-24.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Defamiliarization: Dirty

Glossophobia: Group Presentation of Critical Theories

While reflecting on the group project that I participated in yesterday I realized one thing: the anticipation is always worse than the act. I have always had a fear of pubic speaking because, no matter how well I know a subject, I tend to go blank once I am facing an audience. Yesterday my group members and I did our presentation of three literary criticism theories: Enlightenment, Formalism, and Structuralism. We worked well with each other and had split the theories up between the three of us so that we each had an equal share of work. I believe that each of us equally researched our topic and chose a text to analyze based upon the ideas of our theory. The choices that we made for the texts to analyze were very effective, in my opinion, in illustrating the concepts for each theory. Once in front of the class, we presented each individual theory and text and interacted with the class to analyze each text. I believe that these interactions went well and that the class had a good understanding of each concept, proving that the materials discussed in class along with the readings were effective in teaching these theories. Overall, we felt that our group presentation went well, which made me realize that no matter how nervous I am, it is never as bad as I imagined. Working with this group on an oral presentation greatly decreased the stress level and provided support in expressing ideas as well as creating a successful presentation.