Sunday, December 6, 2015


Final papers are due in Tuesday's class. Also: You must hand in your Reading Notebooks -- there will be no way to get those to me if you forget. Don't arrive late, because the final class could very well end a bit early, depending on how our discussion goes.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Precis Posted for Sachi Moskowitz

Too Camp or Not To Camp
In Notes on "Camp",Susan Sontag explores the idea of Camp, what is Camp, what makes Camp, and how to define Camp. “I am drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it,” she says in the second paragraph of the essay. In reference to art in relation to Camp, she states: “Camp art is often decorative art, emphasizing texture, sensuous surface, a style at the expense of content,” and claims it is the love of the exaggerated, the “off” that defines the canon of Camp.
Sontag uses Art Nouveau as an example, referring to it as a typical and fully developed Camp style, when one thing becomes converted into something else. Lighting fixtures in the form of flowering plants. She uses a specific example, the Paris Metro designed by Hector Guimard in the late 1890s who designed the entrance in the shape of cast­ iron orchid stalks. She takes a look at the art of mannerist artists like Caravaggio and Pontormo, and points out during this period there were extraordinary feelings for artifice, for surface, symmetry and its elegant conventions for representing instant feeling and the total presence of character. She wraps up this thought by stating that calling these artists and their genre simply Camp would not be accurate. It is providing a lens which blocks out content.
Sontag also focuses of different types of literature and what makes it a success. She compares works such as the Iliad to Metamorphosis by Kafka which are completely different works but have the same effect. She writes about valuing work because of its seriousness and the dignity that it achieves. For example the Iliad and Aristophanes’ play. In contrast, in support Sontag's quest to define Camp she focuses on the other creative sensibilities besides seriousness that achieve the same value of underlying seriousness. For instance Kafka and Rimbaud. She states, “That whose goal is not that of creating harmonies but of overstraining the medium and introducing more and more violent, and unreasonable, subject matter.” Supporting her example that, “ something is good not because it is achieved, but because another kind of truth about the human situation, another experience of what it is to be human­­in short, another valid sensibility­­is being revealed.” A seriousness that fails.
To Sontag, Camp is represented in a person's taste, and in a response to the exaggerated. Sontag states Androgyny is an image that supports Camp sensibility. She uses examples like the flowing sexless bodies in Art Nouveau prints and posters, figures with “androgynous vacancy”. Also, the swooning slim figures in pre­-raphaelite paintings and poetry. This is when she talks about Camp drawing on an unacknowledged truth of taste, being the most refined form of sexual attractiveness. Which consists of going against the grains of one’s sex. Sontag explains, “what is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. (Bringing it back to relating to Camp, it is similar because it is an exaggeration of sexual characteristics and personality mannerisms.) Sontag supports this idea by stating, “It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being ­as­ Playing­ a ­Role.”
Sontag describes Camp in many different ways and in an obsessive love / hate kind of relationship. After reading this essay I will be haunted by “what is Camp.” Sontag has delved into something that is rarely discussed or articulated, and she’s analyzed it in what seems every way possible. 

Precis Posted for Rosemary Ye

Rosemary Ye
Dale Carrico
Homo Economicus
November 24, 2015
PrĂ©cis: Hobbes on Equality – Way of the Roundabout
Thomas Hobbes, a philosophical intellect who lived in the late 16th century to the early 17th century, wrote the following section on Equality excerpted from the book Leviathan published in 1651. 
Starting on equality, Hobbes writes how nature has made all men equal with the exception of people (specifically men) in society who claim themselves as being more capable than the other, however it all comes down to who has the best pretending skills. Then he notes, “For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest,” meaning even if they are physically less strong than their opponent, they can still take over the enemy by plotting in secret with others who are also weak in order to protect themselves. In the second paragraph, Hobbes sets an argument between the existence of “art grounded upon words” (such as literature, poetry, rhetoric, drama) and of science, a value which very few people are apparently born with. Evidently it is seen up to here that Hobbes is obsessed with distinction and has a strong attitude towards delineation. The section written is specifically about equality, yet he solely mentions the existence of men and ‘the man’ and assumes the only relevant people born to this world are men. Continuing, Hobbes writes “I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength.”; this line is hypocritical and half-repeats what he wrote at the starting of the section on Equality because ‘strength’ and ‘men’ both are part of a whole (together, not separate) and consequently, nobody are equals in Hobbes’ own words since even the weak can kill the strong. Next Hobbes writes how all men experience prudence at one point and in time, all of them will be equally bestowed this value; here, he makes an association to the possible dangers that could be set on all men. Hobbes argues with himself again, stating that all men have a vain misconception of their own wisdom, saying “which almost all men think they have in a greater degree than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves”. In man’s nature, they only see the good quality in themselves, on how much wit they possess and how much more superior they are than “the vulgar”, but this all comes down to the fact that they see themselves first-hand and see others’ wise qualities second hand from a distance. Hobbes adds “But this proveth rather that men are in that point equal, than unequal.” meaning essentially all he argues in the first few paragraphs are no longer valid because ending the section with a ‘everyone-is-equal-anyhow’ outlook covers up the long stretch he makes on the subject. In the concluding sentence he writes “From this equality of ability arise the quality of hope in the attaining of our ends.” which in false peacefulness ends the section Hobbes wrote on Equality, proving more facts about ‘man’ that are unequal than are actually equal.
In summary and analysis of this piece, Hobbes essentially assumes that everyone is the same and so we learn the truth of how none of the differences that are discussed actually makes a difference (because he’s just going in circles with the equality theories). At the start Hobbes theorizes how in nature men are born equal, then quickly switches perspectives to how the weak man can kill the strong man; thus according to Hobbes’ judgment, what point does he exactly want to make? The focused subject is equality, yet he unfairly judges many basic issues with the example of who’s stronger or weaker, ignoring the existence of women and not knowing if science is actually better than art (claiming that one subject is not born into all men). Equality in Hobbes’ terms is simply a cycle of rationalizing which man is better than the other in strength, prudence, wisdom and wit —therefore no matter how equal he thinks society of that time was, it clearly proves the opposite.

Precis Posted for Tara Caltenback

Tara Caltenback
Homo Economics
Dale Carrico
The Contemporary Sexual Contract
Carole Pateman’s, The Sexual Contract, stands in defense with feminist arguments and stands against inequality between genders in the Social Contract. It speaks on the relationship between men and women in a patriarchal society.  A woman and man’s relationship is determined by the man based off of history and how it is passed on. Pateman also speaks on the shift from “classical patriarchy” to the contemporary understanding of patriarchy.  In either sense, Pateman argues that there is no shift for the rights of women.
The argument of this article talks about how women are preserved in the world. Within these contracts created by men in high command, women are placed within particular parts of the texts.  Pateman talks about women being brought up in the marriage, prostitution, and motherhood contracts. These contracts give men the “authority” to control women in any sense. An example is stated in the marriage contract where men are able to sexually use their wives however they please, even against the woman’s consent. Contracts can be seen with many issues. One including the fact that only men are considered “individuals.” Pateman says “sexual difference is political difference. Sexual difference is the difference between freedom and subjection.” This statement runs true for most of the contracts that were created by men of the patriarchy. Being a man means there is privilege and freedom  just by being a male. By being a woman, there is a lack of what is to be considered “true” identity and ability to live in society without being belittled.
This piece speaks with feminist arguments that are much more contemporary than contracts that have been mentioned. Pateman empowers women in society as there isn’t equality, like there should be. The Sexual Contract enables women to become more equal in comparison to men.  It also calls out the problematic ideas other contracts like the Social Contract offer to spread around society.

Precis Posted for Barry Despenza

Barry Despenza
Dale Carrico

            “Camp” is usually associated with theatricality with attribution towards the gay culture. Camp Culture was popularized by filmmakers such as George & Mike Kuchar. In notes on Susan Montag’s camp, she clearly disagrees with the fact that camp is just some cheesy concept but more of a insight into one’s behavior. One must have love for the exaggeration and the artificial in order to “convert the serious into frivoulous”.  According to Montag, What’s really interesting is the concept of camp and its world in terms of style. She is careful to point out that some art can be approached as a camp, which allows me to believe that camp isn’t something to be ignored.
            Sontag suggests that taste has neither systems nor proofs. What she means is that taste has no formula. It’s clearly subjective and therefore in order to patronize and scrutinize one’s taste is distasteful. She goes on later to deconstruct the notions of taste by addressing a series of notes to Oscar Wilde. “to emphasize style, is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content”. Going back to the love for exaggeration, it is evident that in importance of Ernest, that Ernest life has become a theatrical experience for the viewer. Element of his life is campy but the fact that he learns who he truly is, is a metaphor for “self –identity”. As Montag said before, “Life is way too serious to take serious”/

Precis Posted for Alejandra Morales

Alejandra Morales
Dale Carrico
Homo Economicus

In the book of Wealth of Nation by Adam Smith in chapter 2 justifies which are the principles of the division of labour. Of the Principle Which Gives Occasion to the Division of Labour, Smith describes that the principle of labour in resume words, comes from a natural necessity of the human being to truck, barter and exchange commodities from one to another and since animals lack of reason and speech they act in a different way.
Smith proposes that what makes the mankind and the division of labour is the propensity to truck, barter and exchange items. This action can be observed within any society, which encourages producing labour. It is only humans who have the characteristic that no other being has and this is the necessity of exchange commodities. The first of the reasons we are part of this division are the consequences of the faculty of reason and speech. Smith gives one example comparing the behavior of dogs and humans.  Two greyhounds are chasing the same hare, and then one of them realizes the other dog is they’re also chasing the same hare. While one greyhound looks at the other, as Adam Smith describes this as an accidental concurrence of their passions.” When an animal wants to obtain something whether is another animal or a human being this won’t have the persuasion to obtain something just from free will since he doesn’t have reason or speech.  A dog can go with his master and try to obtain the attention of him just to get fed or to get water. The human being can also work this way with his kind, begging for attention acting in a fawn way just to get what he wants by providing enough evidence to that person that they helping him is actually helping themselves and nothing more.
 In civilized society the man needs cooperation and assistance of others, his success depends on the genius of others matching the genius of his own, while with animals, once they reach maturity they are completely independent and must survive off of their own individual attributes and skills, or genius. The defining factor between humans and all other living species is not only our discovery of reason and speech, but is our labor in the practice for our passion.  “ Give me what I want, and shall have this which you want, ” describes that what we obtain comes from another part, which the thought is mutual. The difference of men’s talents it is not as different as it’s supposed to be in fact is really similar. When human are in a young age they grow up similar to other kids but later than the age of 8 they can start choosing different thought about this, and is because of reason.  After being 8 years old humans begin to notice their talents and they become employed in different occupations. This is an example of a principle of the division of labour.  It is education, habit or custom which makes it and us different doesn’t come from the natural being.
Smith gives us another example, they don’t think about your needs instead they look for their own interest, which is sell or exchange. For human kind there’s no humanity just self-love, which is, address our necessities and the advantages. ­ An example is a hunter who knows his ability to build bows and arrows better than other, he knows that this ability will help him exchange his work for cattle’s or venison in an easier way than he goes to the fields an catch them by himself. In this way he finds it his interest to dedicate his life to this way of life, building arrows and bows for the exchange of something and that’s how the employment starts, exchanging work for others works.
To conclude, the human being is different from any other species for the distinction that men can reason and can talk. It is natural for other species to act for their own convenience and survival but it is man who has the reason to exchange and take what he wants but depending from other men. There’s no difference between kids or even babies or a dog from another dog but it is from their “genius” and talent to survive by their own without any exchange just by their simply disposition of defend themselves. By the contrary men their geniuses are of use to one another, they survive in society with their talent to exchange, barter and truck.

Precis Posted for Karen Yan

Karen Yan
Humanities 218 -01, Fall 2015
Argumentative Final Paper

LaBruce’s Bold Reinterpretation of the Word ‘Camp” in Modern Times

Bruce LaBruce and Susan Sontag are two characters that we have to understand before delving to the summary of this week (11/23/2015)’s lecture post. Susan Sontag is a famous writer that wrote an essay called “Notes on ‘Camp’”, in her essay, Sontag analyzed the word “camp” and the different type of cultural and political connotation that comes with the word. Bruce LaBruce is also an actor and writer that frequently uses materials that involve gay culture, sexual transgressions and even pornography. This week’s post delves into Bruce LaBruce’s interpretation of Susan Sontag’s Notes on ‘Camp’ and the interesting take that one artist has on another is the focus of this week’s lecture.
            Sontag’s interpretation of the word Camp is restricted to her time period, which came 50 years before LaBruce’s time period. Sontag also had a broader interpretation of the word while LaBruce attempted to take the meaning of the word to the edge by uncovering the extremely elaborate sub-categories of the word camp and the different types of camps out there. Due to LaBruce’s explicit nature of his artwork, he specially explored the different camps such as the “bad straight, good straight, bad gay, good gay camps” etc. LaBruce not only expanded on Sontag’s interpretation of the word, he also critiqued her essay by accusing Sontag of  “normalizing” the word camp while being somewhat  hypocritical about it. According to LaBruce, since Sontag is herself a lesbian and is herself in a camp and is involved with campy things, she should not have defined the world or the social term “camp” in such an off-handed manner. LaBruce is especially offended by the reference of the camp by Sontag as “a sensibility that convers the serious into the frivolous.” Not only does this definition seek to undermine the entire culture of camps, it also contradicts with Sontag’s own previous definition which called camp a sort of “sophistication.”
            Later on in LaBruce’s essay, LaBruce does acknowledge the fact that Sontag’s essay was written 50 years ago when there was a different society. Fast forward to modern society, camp is something that is ironically more mainstream. It is clear to see that both artists believe camp to be some sort of a social phenomenon where people of the same liking could band together and perform a sort of a social function. However, according to LaBruce, in modern society, the”whole damn world” is a sort of camp. “Camp today is for the masses,” says LaBruce, with a commentary to today’s modern world. Even though he still believes that there are some sort of reason that modern camp is still based on a certain aestheticism, camp is starting to become prevalent in our society.
            Based on this assumption, LaBruce goes on to break camp into different sub-categories such as good/bad straight and good/bad gay. LaBruce also goes on to explain in detail what each camp will entail and what the different types of sub category means to the world and the word camp itself. Bruce also refers to these sub-categories as an “anti-camp” as LaBruce rejects what Sontag defined to be camp, restricting the influence and meaning of the word. 50 years later, LaBruce is redefining the word camp based on modern day interpretation as well as his own background and experience. LaBruce uses Sontag’s writing as a tangential connection from which he then jumps onto his own completely new interpretation of the word camp, and contradict the old discussion of the word written by Sontag.