Lecture 16: “if separate species we be”*                          English 165EW                           Winter 2013     ...
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890–1937) ●   Best known for his stories of     “cosmic horror,” particularly     those associ...
“Cosmic horror” or “cosmicism”●   Lovecraft’s work takes the position that humanity    is insignificant to the universe as...
(explorer; went mad)  (“her disposition  had been violent”)                         “densely stupid and given to brief per...
The hybrid apes“Especially it was unwise [of Sir Wade] to raveof the living things that might haunt such aplace; of creatu...
Arthur’s heritage“Some of the neighboring families who hadheard tales of old Sir Wade Jermyn’s unseenPortuguese wife decla...
The hybrid Jermyns“his second son, Nevil, a singularly repellentperson who seemed to combine the surlinessof Philip Jermyn...
Offhand (and direct) racism    “The stuffed goddess was a nauseous sight, withered    and eaten away, but it was clearly a...
“Horror, in this way, shows us our inherentskepticism about absolute progress. […]Dracula, The Call of Cthulu, or The Isla...
Glancing back at Kristevan abjection … “the abject confronts us, on the one hand, with those fragile states where man stra...
The borders of “the human”               in Oryx and Crake“The Abominable Snowman – existing and notexisting, flickering a...
“‘That’s all we need,’ said Jimmy’s mother. ‘Morepeople with the brains of pigs. Don’t we have enoughof those already?’” (...
The Crakers“There’s a distant murmur from the village:human voices. If you can call them human. Aslong as they don’t start...
“this dissolution of meaning”*“From nowhere, a word appears: Mesozoic. He cansee the word, he can hear the word, but he ca...
“Jack had a name for the building where themovies went on. He called it Pixieland. Noneof the children knew what that mean...
As you read on …A suggestion: you should pay attention to theplace that refrigerator magnets play in the restof the novel....
Media creditsThe photo of H.P. Lovecraft (slide 2) is in thepublic domain because it was first publishedbefore 1923. Sourc...
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Lecture 16: "if separate species we be"

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Sixteenth lecture for my students in English 165EW, "Life After the End of the World," winter 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/w13/

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Lecture 16: "if separate species we be"

  1. 1. Lecture 16: “if separate species we be”* English 165EW Winter 2013 6 March 2013“‘Practical’ behavior is not ‘atheoretical’ in the sense of‘sightlessness’. The way it differs from theoretical behavior doesnot lie simply in the fact that in theoretical behavior one observes,while in practical behavior one acts, and that action must employtheoretical cognition if it is not to remain blind; for the fact thatobservation is a kind of concern is just as primordial as the factthat action has its own kind of sight. Theoretical behavior is justlooking, without circumspection.” — Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 99 / 69 * Lovecraft 73
  2. 2. Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890–1937) ● Best known for his stories of “cosmic horror,” particularly those associated with the fictional deity Cthulhu. ● Work – primarily short stories – was primarily published in pulp magazines, especially Weird Tales. ● Has been greatly influential on later 20th-century horror, science-fiction, and fantasy writers. Lovecraft in 1915.
  3. 3. “Cosmic horror” or “cosmicism”● Lovecraft’s work takes the position that humanity is insignificant to the universe as a whole (and the universe may in fact contain powerful entities that are hostile to humans).● Common themes in his work that are implications of this position: – Knowledge and understanding lead to madness. ● Truth (the universe, its structure, its scale) is, in the final analysis, incomprehensible. – Humanity is influenced by non-human forces. – Guilt and other effects of one’s decisions are heritable.
  4. 4. (explorer; went mad) (“her disposition had been violent”) “densely stupid and given to brief periods of uncontrollable violence”; “a kind of reputation for feats of strength and climbing” (anthropologist; strangled an explorer) “a singularly repellent person” “with this gorilla Alfred Jermyn was singularly fascinated”(all quotes are from “something was amiss, thoughpp. 74-75) Arthur was the worst”
  5. 5. The hybrid apes“Especially it was unwise [of Sir Wade] to raveof the living things that might haunt such aplace; of creatures half of the jungle and halfof the impiously aged city.” (74)“Sir Wade’s wild tales of a lost city peopled bystrange hybrid creatures. […] certain legendsof white apes ruled by a white god” (75)“a nameless, unsuspected race of junglehybrids” (76)
  6. 6. Arthur’s heritage“Some of the neighboring families who hadheard tales of old Sir Wade Jermyn’s unseenPortuguese wife declared that her Latin bloodmust be showing itself.” (76)“The ape-princess, it was said, became theconsort of a great white god who had come outof the West. For a long time they had reignedover the city together, but when they had a son,all three went away.” (76)“of poetic rather than scientific temperament”(76)
  7. 7. The hybrid Jermyns“his second son, Nevil, a singularly repellentperson who seemed to combine the surlinessof Philip Jermyn with the hauteur of theBrightholmes, ran away with a vulgar dancer.”(75)“With this gorilla Alfred Jermyn was singularlyfascinated, and on many occasions the twowould eye each other for long periods throughthe intervening bars.” (75)“They did not expect to hear Sir Alfred Jermynemit a shrill, inhuman scream.” (75)
  8. 8. Offhand (and direct) racism “The stuffed goddess was a nauseous sight, withered and eaten away, but it was clearly a mummified white ape of some unknown species, less hairy than any recorded variety, and infinitely nearer mankind—quite shockingly so.” (78)● In addition to the concerns about “hybridism,” you might consider other statements explicitly about race: – “he [Sir Wade] would permit no one to care for his young son save a loathsome black woman from Guinea.” (74) – “it remained for a European to improve on the data offered by old Mwanu.” (77)
  9. 9. “Horror, in this way, shows us our inherentskepticism about absolute progress. […]Dracula, The Call of Cthulu, or The Island of Dr.Moreau present a dark-regressive shadowimage of the bright and progressive veneer ofeighteenth- and nineteenth-century optimism.The origins of modern horror provide a vividpresentation of the inherent moral weaknessesand often-present darkness in the humanimagination.”– Philip Tallon, “Through a Mirror, Darkly” (2010)
  10. 10. Glancing back at Kristevan abjection … “the abject confronts us, on the one hand, with those fragile states where man strays on the territories of animal.” (Kristeva 12) – The experience of abjection is “in fact recognition of the want on which any being, meaning, language, or desire is founded.” (5) ● Among other things, this is an effect of recognizing the relative scale of the individual life and the vast network of relationships in which it is entangled. ● “Put another way, it means that there are lives not sustained by desire, as desire is always for objects. Such lives are based on exclusion.” (6) – Abjection results, in part, from partial exclusion of repressed material from conscious mental activity. (7)
  11. 11. The borders of “the human” in Oryx and Crake“The Abominable Snowman – existing and notexisting, flickering at the edges of blizzards, apelikeman or manlike ape, stealthy, elusive, known onlythrough rumours and through its backward-pointingfootprints. Mountain tribes were said to have chased itdown and killed it when they had the chance. Theywere said to have boiled it, held special feats; all themore exciting, he supposes, for bordering oncannibalism.” (8; ch. 1)“What’s his [Snowman’s] life worth anyway, and whocares? Out, out, brief candle. He’s served hisevolutionary purpose, as fucking Crake knew hewould. He’s saved the children.” (107; ch. 5)
  12. 12. “‘That’s all we need,’ said Jimmy’s mother. ‘Morepeople with the brains of pigs. Don’t we have enoughof those already?’” (56; ch. 4)“Monkey brains, had been Crake’s opinion. Monkeypaws, monkey curiosity, the desire to take apart, turninside out, smell, fondle, measure, improve, trash,discard – all hooked up to monkey brains, anadvanced model of monkey brains but monkey brainsall the same.” (98; ch. 5)“They’ve accepted Snowman’s monstrousness,they’ve known from the beginning he was a separateorder of being.” (101; ch. 5)“He [Snowman] can imagine the dismay – as if anorang-utang had crashed a formal waltzfest andstarted groping some sparkly pastel princess.” (169;ch. 7)
  13. 13. The Crakers“There’s a distant murmur from the village:human voices. If you can call them human. Aslong as they don’t start singing. Their singingis unlike anything he ever heard in hisvanished life: it’s beyond the human level, orbelow it.” (104; ch. 5)“Despite their irritating qualities – amongwhich he counts their naive optimism, theiropen friendliness, their calmness, and theirlimited vocabularies – he [Snowman] feelsprotective towards them.” (153; ch. 7)
  14. 14. “this dissolution of meaning”*“From nowhere, a word appears: Mesozoic. He cansee the word, he can hear the word, but he can’t reachthe word. He can’t attach anything to it. This ishappening too much lately, this dissolution of meaning,the entries on his cherished wordlists drifting off intospace.” (39; ch. 2)“Now let’s all choose a word, a different word, so wecan each have our own special mantra.” (68; ch. 4)“‘Oryx,’ he says. ‘I know you’re there.’ He repeats thename. It’s not even her real name, which he’d neverknown anyway; it’s only a word. It’s a mantra.” (110;ch. 5) * Atwood 39
  15. 15. “Jack had a name for the building where themovies went on. He called it Pixieland. Noneof the children knew what that meant –Pixieland – because it was an English wordand an English idea, and Jack couldn’t explainit.” (142; ch. 6)“What’s happening to his mind? He has avision of the top of his neck, opening up intohis head like a bathroom drain. Fragments ofwords are swirling down it, in a grey liquid herealizes is his dissolving brain.” (149; ch. 7)“I have a daily routine, he thinks. Routines aregood. His entire head is becoming one bigstash of obsolete fridge magnets.” (148; ch. 7)
  16. 16. As you read on …A suggestion: you should pay attention to theplace that refrigerator magnets play in the restof the novel. How do they encapsulate largersystems of meaning? How are they deployedas self-contained units of meaning?Another suggestion: think about the ways inwhich the two temporal strands are related toeach other, and the mechanisms by whichAtwood switches between them.
  17. 17. Media creditsThe photo of H.P. Lovecraft (slide 2) is in thepublic domain because it was first publishedbefore 1923. Source:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Howard_Phillips_Lovecraft_in_1915.jpg
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