To this day, the naked body is considered unnatural. With the development of social norms and standards, civilization’s attitude toward nudity has fluctuated greatly. John Berger explains how “to be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself”. In the past and in the modern day, nudity is greatly used as a form of art, most of times it is used to represent an idea or for the viewer of the art piece to capture certain feelings. Do you agree with Berger’s distinguishment between nudity and being naked? Is there such a distinguishment nowadays? How does our society regard nudity and nakedness today?
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Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
Edition used: Vintage Books
In this lecture entitled “From Spectacle to Surveillance,” Christina Hendricks discusses Foucault’s argument in Parts One (on the spectacle of public execution) and Three (on discipline and panopticism) of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. She begins by talking about Foucault’s views of power, the relationship between power and knowledge, and his idea of his political role as an intellectual. Then she talks about the reversal of vision in the text, from the sovereign power being the spectacle (Part One of the text) to individuals being surveyed in disciplinary power (Part Three).
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the slides attached.
There are no slides in the embedded YouTube video, below.
- Foucault has said in interviews that he doesn’t want to tell people what they should do. Are there ways one can see indications of Foucault’s own moral judgements in this text nevertheless?
- For Foucault, “power and knowledge directly imply one another” (27). How can we see this relationship between power and knowledge in Discipline and Punish? You may, if you wish, compare/contrast the relationship between power and knowledge as discussed in part of Discipline and Punish with how power and knowledge are related in one other text we have read (e.g., Plato, Hobbes, Shakespeare, Carter, or another text of your choosing).
- Discuss Foucault’s view of the “spectacle” of sovereign power (whether in punishment or in any other context), and how we can see it in one other text or film we have discussed so far this year.
- Discuss Foucault’s view of “panopticism” and how we can see it in one other text or film we have discussed so far this year.
- “The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation” (170). Discuss the connection between vision and power in Discipline and Punish, and in one other text or film we have discussed so far this year.
- Can the relationships enacted in social media today be seen as extending into new realms /spaces the disciplinary mechanisms and practices that Foucault discusses in his book? Explain, using Foucault’s ideas from Discipline and Punish to support your argument.
- Discuss how Foucault’s argument regarding the disciplinary mechanisms of educational institutions applies (or not) to your educational experiences to date.
- Some readers and critics have seen Foucault’s position in Discipline and Punish as hopeless, arguing that because power is everywhere, there is no escaping it – in other words, that Foucault’s philosophy precludes the possibility of any form of revolutionary action. Based on your reading of Discipline and Punish, do you agree? Why or why not?
Surprise, surprise, I’m talking about something feminist for my presentation, what else is new.
I thought Berger pointed a lot of very profound things in the book, but chapter 3, the chapter in which he evaluated women in paintings, struck me particularly. Firstly, it was the voice that it was written in. It was surprisingly full of conviction, especially considering this is written by an elite-educated, privileged, white male. In fact, it was almost an awkward reading experience as I couldn’t stop remembering that what I was reading was wr
itten by a man. But so many parts of what he said made me have those “oh DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN” moments.
And yes, men can be feminists. I don’t doubt that. I wish more were. I’m just saying, I was pleasantly surprised.
While he does point out many, many things that I agree with and also felt strongly about, one thing that I wish he could have gone into was why. Why are men the “ideal viewers”? Why are women posed in these paintings to appeal to men? Why are women portrayed so submissively in European art? I realize that this text is meant to be art criticism, but I think it’s still important to think of what he says and question some of it.
Alternatively, we can think about art that portray men in the nude. For example, consider Michaelangelo’s David (yes, it’s a sculpture, not a painting. Whatever.) Are men still the ideal viewers in this context? Is this sexualized in the same way that nude women are? Why or why not?
And then what about the notorious Abercrombie and Fitch ads featuring chiselled, tanned men on the beach? (I was going to include one here but I didn’t want to go into citing it somehow.) How do we see those differently? How is that more or less violent than seeing women in those positions? Why are women sexualized to the point that their nipples are taboo and censored while men’s aren’t? Who are those ads supposed to appeal to?
I’m going to be quite frank, I don’t really understand Berger’s argument regarding advertisements. Part of my confusions steam from way in which the ad is portrayed; how, depending on whether the intended audience is either male or female, the purpose of the ad is slightly changed. When discussing the effect of publicity images, Berger writes, “Publicity begins by working on a natural appetite for pleasure. But it cannot offer the real object of pleasure and there is no convincing substitute for a pleasure in that pleasure’s own terms” (132). But, Berger goes on to state, “This is why publicity can never really afford to be about the product or opportunity it is proposing to the buyer who is not yet enjoying it….Publicity is always about the future buyer” (132). Berger argues that the advertisement makes an individual “envious of himself as he might be” by depicting another person, similar to the viewer himself, so that the viewer becomes “envious of himself as he might be” (132). Therefore, Berger concludes that publicity “is about social relations, not objects” (132). Yet, two pages later, Berger quits denoting the viewer as “himself” and begins calling the viewer of the ad as a female figure. Like the male viewer, the female is also supposed to become envious of her future self. However, unlike the man, the woman, will “imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will justify her loving herself” (134, italics mine). Here, it seems that the ad aims to objectify women even further. Although Berger argues that women are objectified by art in the third essay of the book, this statement makes little sense to me. After all, if an ad really is about social relations and not about objects, how can it still be effective and make a woman into an object at the same time? (As a quick note, I do realize that Berger is arguing that women are shown as objects throughout art and, as a result, came to asses and value themselves as objects. But, honestly, I don’t get why a woman would want to further objectify herself. Doesn’t a women want power, which would allow them to transcend their traditional categorization as objects?)
Near the end of his essay on publicity images, Berger claims that “Publicity helps to mask and compensate for all that is undemocratic within society. And it also masks what is happening in the rest of the world” (149). Even though what Berger describes does apply to many advertisements, it is not always the case, particularly when it comes to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social enterprises. Take Lifebuoy, for instance. In 2013, Lifebuoy launched a campaign called “Help a Child Reach 5”, which was aimed to improve the living conditions in developing countries by reducing the number of deaths resulting from preventable diseases. As one of the world’s largest health soap brands, Lifebuoy focused on improving the hand washing habits of people to prevent the spread of diseases, such as diarrhoea. To raise funding for its campaign, Lifebuoy launched an award winning advertisement.
However, in many of the countries in which Lifebuoy’s video was shown–such as Canada–did not sell Lifebuoy’s product. Thus, the purpose of this advertising campaign was not to increase sales or make a person feel envious of their future self, but to raise public awareness of a global issue. Thus, it seems that Berger has not accounted for NGOs and social enterprises in his argument, despite the fact that they make up a considerable potion of the business world. Hence, I am wondering if there is, perhaps, a way in which operations like NGOs and social enterprises can be included in Berger’s argument? And if so, how?
Sorry for the super extra late blog post on hypertext’s, I’ve been wanting to write on this topic ever since we finished the reading on Strickland’s Ballad. Deconstructing this text and looking at its ambiguous nature as a form of interaction with the reader was very interesting. However, whilst writing my essay on this topic, I felt that justifying the effect the poem created by the absence or ambiguity of another element made me sometimes skeptical of what I was writing. In the end I think that I managed to pull it off alright (lol); however, I still wanted to investigate what other hypertexts had explored in terms of reader involvement and navigation that differentiates them from other pieces of literature in other media.
Furthermore, I went ahead and investigated hypertexts that actually use the technology at their disposal to enhance the interactive aspect of the text, and how sometimes this technology intensifies the theme communicated, just as Strickland’s ambiguity does with its text. This was to see if hypertexts can actually be interactive, interactive as we conventially think of the word in this day and age, where the boundaries between reality and digital are being blurred to the absolute minimal. In terms of experimentation with technology regarding reader involvement, Strickland’s text doesn’t do much, I believe that a hypertext could do way more than having words highlighted that allow you to move from page to page. So I went ahead, and investigated other hypertexts.
I found out that the main source of the interactivity in most of the hypertexts were very similar to the one presented in The Ballad. Most of them truly relied on the reader clicking the highlighted words to construct the text. The very first hypertext, Sunshine ’69 is a hypertext novel with intertwining character stories. In the main page they give you the option of different forms of navigation, you can choose to navigate chronologically or non-chronologically by choosing the dates of the events in the novel. There’s another option, where you can navigate by choosing the character you want to follow, or geographic naviagtion through a map where the events of the story take place. It is fair to mention that it does not elaborate interactivity further than Strickland’s work, where we navigate by clicking on the highlighted words, but it is interesting to see how the author’s decomposed the different categories and elements the reader can use to navigate the story. However, this form of navigation does enhance the reading of the story, as it is a mystery-thriller, you have to build the events from how you choose to navigate the story. Reading each of the character’s perspective in a particular order will give you a certain bias of one character over the other, this bias will develop, but it will do so differently if you had read the story geographically or “birds-eye view” which is the all-seeing perspective of the text.
Another colossal hypertext released around the same time, named the Grammatron, explores different narratives as well. This text is massive, it contains around “2000 hyperlinks” and “40+minutes of original soundtrack”. According to its “about” page it is a story about cyberspace, the evolution of virtual sex and it also explores digital narratives. Although most of it narrative exploration is the same as Sunshine ’69 and The Ballad – if you choose the “High Bandwidth Version” named “Interfacing” it opens up an interesting introduction to the regular version. The about page does not explain the reasoning behind having the two versions, and the hypertext is massive for me to read all of it to understand such reasoning, but this introduction opens up other possibilities for the interactivity in texts. When you begin with this option a new window pops open and automatically starts playing a sinister recording of a voice slowed down, alongside is a synth playing minor chords. This song is accompanied by a text that plays automatically, accompanied by abstract animated gifs, every 4 seconds or more the text displayed changes. The very fact that the reading ambients itself and obligates the reader to go at a certain speed accentuates the theme of digital evolution and consciousness. It seems the text is playing itself or rather thinking for itself, and this message is presented from the very home page, where one of the hyperlinks displayed says the following: “you are about to enter The Grammatron, please wait while the machine reads you”. Also, the use of glitchy animated gifs add life to the text and a certain sinister aura to it, almost taking over your computer through automatic, and to a certain extent, unstoppable storytelling. This is a clear example where the coders of this text explored forms of interactive storytelling to emphasize on a certain theme and create a bigger impact on the reader through it.
Other hypertexts, like the work that is presented in Bram.org, collects dynamic and interactive digital poetry that speak about the human condition of loneliness. Although most of the the texts are fairly simple they present a new way in which we view poetry as they use the automatic digital display significantly to alter the way we read the poetry. The text “All Alone” is a clear example of this: when the text opens a barrage of pop-up windows displaying the words “All. Alone. All One.” – in that order. Alternating between colours, these windows close as soon as they have displayed these words. Finally leaving the reader with a single word displayed: “you”. The loss of control through the barrage of pop-ups and the intense display of colours, impacts you and gives you a certain impression which finally adds power to the word “you”. An extremely simple form of poetry it is complemented through its use of coding to get emphasize on the word “you” which further adds to the theme of loneliness point that is to supposed to be communicated in this collection.
Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Available on YouTube
F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)
Available on YouTube
Karl Grune, The Street (1923)
Available only w/o music & French subtitles on YouTube
In this lecture, Jason Lieblang discusses some aspects of the social, political, and cultural history of the Weimar Republic in Germany and expressionism in cinema. He then focuses on vision in the three films noted above.
Please see this Mediasite link for the video with the sides attached (the embedded video below does not have the slides).
- It is often said of early German horror films that their effect on the spectator consists in their evocation of what Freud calls “the uncanny.” Discuss Caligari and/or Nosferatu as embodiments of “the uncanny.”
- While Caligari & Nosferatu are easy to explain as works of Expressionist cinema, Mabuse & The Street are less clear-cut in this regard. Discuss the influence of Expressionism as you see it embodied by Mabuse and/or The Street.
- Caligari, Nosferatu & Dr. Mabuse are all monsters, and monsters represent what we—perhaps without our being conscious of it—fear. Discuss one or two of these monsters in terms of what they communicate about the fears of the Weimar Republic period.
- Discuss what Dr. Mabuse tells us about urban space, both interior and exterior. What, in particular, does it reveal about 1920s Berlin?
- Discuss the representation of gender in one or two of this week’s films. Remember that “gender” doesn’t have to just be about men and women, but gender identity and/or performance as well.
- It has been argued that Expressionist cinema is German Romanticism reinvented through the medium of film. Based on your exposure to German Romanticism in this course, what evidence do you see in Caligari and Nosferatu in support of this claim?
- Discuss some of the ways in which one or two of this week’s films are concerned with questions of vision and visibility (choose one or two films to talk about).
- Analyze the thematic significance of the mise-en-scène—the arrangement of actors, lighting, props, costumes, etc. within the frame—of one of the films assigned for this week. Focus on no more than two or three scenes in the film.
- Discuss the contribution that the narrative frame (the scenes at the beginning and the end) makes to the theme in Caligari.
- Discuss the ways in which written text is incorporated into one or two of the films. For example, you could talk about the intertitles, or when written text is superimposed on the screen.
- Silent films do not have as much dialogue as films with synchronized sound, and must communicate meaning in other ways. Analyze the ways meaning is expressed visually in one or two of the films.
Posted in Jason Lieblang, lecture, powerpoint, Seeing and Knowing, video | Tagged with Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Caligari, Dr. Mabuse, Film, German Films, Grune, Lang, Murnau, Nosferatu, Weimar Cinema, Weimar Films, Wiene
In Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus trilogy, the Anthony Quinn-lookalike, Discordian anarchist pirate/lawyer Hagbard Celine (try to fit that on a business card) follows three laws in accordance to his personal philosophy. The first two overlap eerily well with Foucault’s writings, especially considering that the Illuminatus books were published two years before Discipline and Punish.
Celine’s First Law is that ‘public security is the chief cause of public insecurity’. He uses the example of Soviet Russia, wherein the recursive levels of secret policing and rampant paranoia essentially devoured itself. Everybody spies on everybody ‘until the funding runs out’, and a fear of subversive artists dominates despite the fact that they could do little to no more harm than the average citizen in reality. The notion that everybody is being watched means nobody can trust anybody else, and the uncertainty is the greatest fear therein – when is one alone? When is one safe? The fact that the panopticon only requires that inmates think they are being observed, when they may or may not be, is naturally conducive to this state of mind, and this example serves to elaborate on the terms that Foucault established in his view of Bentham’s prison.
Celine’s Second Law relates to the concepts of truth and power. To Foucault, the two fuel each other. Truth informs power, which when exercised creates truth. Celine’s definition is somewhat different: ‘truth is only possible in a non-threatening situation’. As an anarchist, Celine uses a counterpoint to this as an argument against hierarchy, stating that there is always the subtle pressure to tell one’s boss what they want to hear to avoid a loss of security. His example is the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s obsession with Communist infiltration led the organization to focus on hunting the Red Menace despite the very low threat it posed compared to, say, organized crime (which Hoover didn’t believe existed on a national scale). Agents who disagreed were at best declined promotions, or at worst branded Communists themselves and fired/blacklisted. The two views of truth seem to mirror each other in a way – Foucault’s belief is that truth is tied to power, and Celine’s is that truth is estranged from power (that said, their definitions of the term are not necessarily identical).
The main thrust of this analysis is that these ideas come from the same place, the Cold War climate that informed Foucault’s writings and The Illuminatus. The former analyses the statements while the latter parodies them. Between the two of them, both works serve the purpose of fleshing out the paranoia and uncertainty therein, with cold logic on one hand and utter absurdity on the other.
In Arts One this week we are discussing Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, but just parts 1 and 3. I gave a lecture early on in the week, and realized the next day that there was something I should have done in the lecture: because this text is complex, how the parts fit together may not be clear to people reading it for the first time, and I should have tried to outline that in the lecture.
So I’m going to do so now, here, instead (and add this into the lecture next year! It’s much faster if I say it than writing it all out).
What follows isn’t an outline of the whole text, just an attempt to show how what he’s doing in Part 1 and Part 3 work together.
From the public execution to the prison
The subtitle of the book, in English, is “The Birth of the Prison” (in French it’s Naissance de la prison). And we don’t get much about the prison in parts 1 and 3; it comes in part 4. But part of what he’s doing in the text is talking about how, in Europe, punishment moved from a kind of spectacle of sovereign power, whether in public executions or other public punishments, to the enclosure of people in prisons. “I would like to write the history of [the] prison, with all the political investments of the body that it gathers together in its closed architecture,” Foucault writes at the end of the first chapter.
In the second chapter of Part 1, “The Spectacle of the Scaffold,” Foucault describes the public spectacle of punishment, and in Part 2 he describes what reforms were called for in punishment in France in the latter half of the 18th century (Part 2 was not assigned for us to read). But they didn’t call for what actually happened: most crimes ended up being punished through imprisonment. The reformers though of imprisonment as just one possible punishment among many, and only reserved for certain kinds of crimes (114). However, Foucault notes, “within a short space of time, detention became the essential form of punishment. In the penal code of 1810, between death and fines, it occupies … almost the whole field of possible punishments” (115). He then asks why that should have become the case.
The two stories that open the text, that of the execution of Damiens and the time-table for the prison for young people written up by Faucher, exemplify this shift in types of punishment. And imprisonment is not just a matter of locking people away; it also focuses on the “soul” rather than the body: much more attention is paid to the criminal and his/her “passions, instincts, anomalies, infirmities, maladjustments …” (17). Punishment connected to the prison now considers not just the crimes someone did, but “Where did [they] originate in the author himself? Instinct, unconscious, environment, heredity”? (19). It’s not just a matter of punishing the act, but also the person themselves, and of asking how that person can be transformed: “the sentence that condemns or acquits is not simply a judgement of guilt …; it bears within it an assessment of normality and a technical prescription for a possible normalization” (21). The time-table described by Faucher (6-7) is part of technique of attempting to reform individuals, not just punish acts.
So, again, Foucault’s question is: Why did Europe (and in particular France, which is what he is focusing on here), move from the public spectacle to the normalizing prison?
What happened in the meantime was the development of disciplinary methods. Those are what he is describing in Part 3. The partitioning of space, the observation of people to try to make sure they are acting in the most efficient manner, the breaking up of actions so as to manage them in a deep way (like the action of raising a rifle, p. 153), the attempt to get as much use out of elements of time as possible, and more are part of the “docility-utility” that disciplinary mechanisms attempt to enforce on the body. They try to make people more “docile” (compliant, submissive) and at the same time more “useful” (efficient).
The examination–which is a practice that can range from exams in schools to exams by doctors or psychologists, to examinations of prisoners to determine if they are ready for release or parole–is an important disciplinary mechanism that Foucault talks about in the chapter entitled (“The Means of Correct Training”). It combines surveillance with normalization, with judging people against a norm, classifying and ranking them (as discussed in lecture). The examination allows for individuals to be both visible and knowable: they become described in documentation that makes of the individual a “case” that is “described, judged, measured, compared with others … [and also] trained or corrected, classified, normalized, excluded, etc.” (191).
— Did you catch that? Seeing and knowing…our course theme! —
The panopticon is both a building plan for a prison developed by Jeremy Bentham (and a design for some actual prisons) and a conceptual model for how disciplinary power works. It emphasizes the visibility of individuals for the sake of surveilling them, of examining them, and developing knowledge about them (203-204).
It also has the benefit of getting people to conform to norms on their own, to discipline themselves: “He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection” (202-203). When you think at any moment you might be being watched, but you can’t be sure if you are (the “unverifiability” of the observation (201)), it’s much more likely that you will discipline yourself to act as you are supposed to: “it is not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behaviour, the madman to calm, the worker to work, the schoolboy to application, the patient to the observation of the regulations” (202).
From disciplinary mechanisms to the prison
These disciplinary mechanisms and the panoptic model developed in many institutions and practices: in the military, schools, hospitals among other places (138). But what happened was that they were useful, and ended up spreading; Foucault refers to “the gradual extension of the mechanisms of discipline throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their spread throughout the whole social body, the formation of what might be called in general the disciplinary society” (209).
Soon they were used by the police and the legal system (213-215). And they, and the panoptic model of the prison, became embedded in punishment.
All the great movements of extension that characterize modern penality–the problematization of the criminal behind his crime, the concern with a punishment that is a correction, a therapy, a normalization, the division of the act of judgement between various authorities that are supposed to measure, assess, diagnose, cure, transform individuals–all this betrays the penetration of the disciplinary examination …” (227).
Foucault ends part 3 with a question that, hopefully, now might make more sense: “Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons”? (228). Because according to him, the prison developed in large part through the spread of disciplinary mechanisms that were used in these other institutions.
And Foucault, as noted in my lecture, leaves it up to us whether we want to question, and possibly resist, the disciplinary and panoptic aspects of all of them.
Out of all the philosophers we’ve read so far, I think I find Foucault the one most relatable to my own thought processes (This has nothing to do with my presentation I just had to start with something). I especially liked his more in depth look into the concept of power. Foucault, to my understanding, challenges the idea that power as a concept is an externally granted “object” that you either have or you don’t. Instead, he sees power as a relationship between two parties in which one party shows dominance and the other shows submission. Meaning that, although one person may be acting as an authority, it is the other party’s choice to then either act like a subject, an equal, or a higher authority. So that an authoritarian being’s power lies in their subjects’ active submission. We’ve seen several examples of this, like in The Tempest in that Prospero’s power lies in his control over the people on the island, or that the kingsmen lose their status on the boat once the helmsmen no longer thinks them worthy of his worship; or in The Bloody Chamber (short story), that the protagonist chooses to marry and live “under” the Marquis; or even in many of the Dabydeen poems, in which the slaves reclaim their power by rebelling against their masters in spirit by singing about defiling white women and such.
If my understanding is correct, then a power-powerless relationship, when understood in this context, would be very malleable and it would consistently see a shift in power to the point where all parties are eventually equal because of their ability to cease and deny power. In this way, a relationship of power is more like a relationship of compromise and coordination (or not because I tend to have a pretty “we’re all in this together” view of the world).
I’m trying to lead to the question I have, which I hope will make sense now:
If power (as an external object that is passed down a hierarchy) does not exist, but only the dominance and submission of interacting parties, is it possible to re-frame the entire hierarchical structure of our modern and majorly capitalist society so that the need or concept of “power” is eliminated? In other words, if we never saw power as a hierarchy, but initially defined it the way Foucault has, would our society look more like Rousseau’s nascent society? Or something more socialist/communist? If we start trying to shift out paradigm now, is there a middle ground that we could effectively reach?
There is much debate as to whether the system of imprisonment is better or equal to the effects of a punitive city. What are the similarities and differences between the effects of the two? Do you think there is ever a time where someone should be publicly punished or humiliated?
also food for thought, what would Foucault think of the death penalty, would he be for or against it?