•03/11/2010 • Leave a Comment

The Enlightenment and the age of Modernist thought took power away from faith and explained the world’s miracles with science.  Thus, man holds the power when religion is tossed to the side. Or in this case, woman.


Amory vs. Raskolnikov: Modern Men

•03/11/2010 • Leave a Comment

Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise have influenced the characters, styling, and themes of Woody Allen’s work.  In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov is constantly musing over himself, his intellect, and his superiority over others.  He is the picture of the “Modern” man, a man who rejects religion (for the majority of the novel) and who depends on facts and science. The intellectual side of Raskolnikov far overpowers any emotional or creative development, which leaves Raskolnikov with inadequacy in maintaining the relationships in his life.  Amory, Fitzgerald’s main character, is similar to Raskolnikov in several aspects.  He is intellectual, contemplative, and self obsessed.  He represents another for of the modern man, one who looks to education for his answers and who lacks spiritual foundations.  Amory is raised with money and approaches life with a superiority complex that encumbers potential friendships.  Like Raskolnikov, Amory lives within his head more often than not and he is much more interested in himself and his own problems than on any other thing that is going on around him.

The two characters are not completely alike, which creates a juxtaposition in respect of the definition of a Modern Man.  Raskolnikov does not have moments of self-realization until the end of the novel, although he does go back and forth with thoughts of confessing.  Amory, in contrast,  developes and discards old believes as the novel progresses and he grows as a character.  Amory changes for the better in that he becomes interested in other people and their strengths while Raskolnikov lives in a world that completely revolves around his own obsessions.  Raskolnikov represents the modern man in that he feels that he is beyond faith for the majority of the novel.  Amory represents modern men who strive for intellectual progress and understanding.   What differs is that the men display  Enlightenment and Modernism in opposing ways.

Disappointment without judgement?

•03/03/2010 • Leave a Comment

Could it be that an undergraduate is disappointed with the ending of Crime and Punishment? Am I allowed to have an opinion on such a highly revered novel, and if so, should I dare to voice it?  Well, in my case, humbly of course, I say…YES!  I finished reading the book late one night after pouring over fifty to a hundred pages at a time for the past few weeks.  I had become so interested in the workings of Raskolnikv’s mind, I actually found myself not wanting the story to end. His disdain for the world around him, his fascination and feelings toward Sonya and his high self-regard were so interesting.

Yet, as I began reading the last thirty pages, give or take, I found myself confused.  I understand that at some point Raskolnikov was bound to turn himself in because of the unbearable self-torment he was going through.  I understand that he was eventually going to go to jail and that Sonya was going to follow him out of love and devotion.  I even am aware that men do change somewhat and are capable of renewing their views to an extent. The problem I have is, at the end of the story it is wrapped up nicely with a little bow.  The characters find, while sitting silently on a river bank, that true love will save them both from misery.  Raskolnikov has an epiphany that he does after all love Sonya and looks to her for salvation and a future.  This realization causes not only his attitude to change but also for an immediate reaction in his fellow inmates.  Not only that, but he faces the world with completely new, freshly opened eyes and notices the beauty around him.  In my opinion, that is absurd.  I am so disappointed in the final outcome.  I feel hungry for more and completely unsatisfied with how there is such a huge change and such an abrupt conclusion. Dostoevsky is an amazing author; he writes in such detail that the streets and homes are visible in my mind, but I am still left wanting.

What….Weight Watchers?

•02/28/2010 • Leave a Comment

Woody Allen’s essay in The Insanity Defense, “Notes from the Overfed” made me think of all of the reasons people eat.  His combined readings of Dostoevsky and the Weight Watchers magazine created a philosophical look at being overweight, which I do not believe Allen has ever been.  His insight into the world of fat is comical yet introspective.  The relationship people have with food and their own fat sometimes appear to border on religious.  As I venture further into reading Crime and Punishment, there are passages that stand out of questioning the meaning of life and questioning God’s presence.  Raskolnikov mocks Sonya’s belief in God and her faith that He will provide her with what she needs to survive.  In Allen’s essay, he writes about a conversation between himself and an uncle in which the Uncle proposes a question about how much He weighs.  There is an obvious connection between the two readings and the essay, if in fact, Allen was actually reading those when this essay came to him.

As we discussed class, Raskolnikov represents the modern man, one who is wholly in pursuit of one’s own self-interest, expressing a lack of belief in a higher power whom could judge his actions.  In this light, a reader can assume that the idea of one’s God being in food and consuming that food as an act of religion would therefore mean that one is trying to be what he eats, being God. Also, Weight Watchers is supposed to give an over-eater the tools to resist the cravings and turn away from their old habits, which completely goes against the rational egoist train of thought.

In short, in reading Dostoevsky, and then reading this Allen’s piece, the influence of the themes in Crime and Punishment are more apparent.  Thus, in reading the literature that has influenced Woody Allen, it gives his audience a better understanding of him.

Only the beginning…

•02/20/2010 • Leave a Comment

Crime and Punishment is a daunting read.  Any book that is 550 or so pages long and is in thrown in the mix of reading for four other English classes is a daunting read.  That being said, it is hard to put this book down.  I have gotten past the intro and am reading well past the murders of the two women, and this book has taken over my homework time like a wave over a sandcastle.  I love that this book has gotten so interesting and that the main character is such an intriguing person.  I love that he goes back and forth with himself over the murder and what he should do about it.  I have yet to find a connection between the book and Woody Allen, but I am sure it will surface eventually, with a little help from class discussion.   Could it be that both Allen’s characters and the main character, Raskolnikov, have running inner monologues throughout their interactions, daily activities, and well into the night?  The character of Raskolnikov is so twisted and self-absorbed, with snobbish airs even though he is a former student struggling to live and completely in poverty.  Is there a tie between his high conceit and Allen’s character’s seemingly unrelenting high self-regard? Maybe the tie in is found in movies and works by Allen that I have not yet encountered, but regardless, I am far too into this book to stop and think now.  I am just holding on for the ride and trying not to push aside the rest of my homework in the meantime.

Claude Monet via Internet

•02/13/2010 • Leave a Comment

Walter Benjamin’s view of the reproduction of great works of art and its effect on their aura are exemplified in the availability of art on the internet.  Claude Monet’s works are available through a multitude of searches, whether it is on an internet search, a library search, or through art magazines, textbooks or periodicals.  Because Monet’s artwork was created long ago and is of high esteem and demand, it is rare to see it in person or to view an original closely.  The strokes of his brush and the oil paint’s movement; the light and dark details, the exact color schemes-all are lost in reprints, photographs, and through the quality of color on a computer screen.  The painting below, “Impression, Sunrise” captures one moment that Monet experienced while looking out of a window.  The colors that viewers see on the computer screen are muted and blurred, they are not what one would see in the painting itself.  The effect of the movement of each paint stroke is lost through the screen as well.

Walter Benjamin noted that mechanical reproduction of art depreciate its presence in time and space.  This especially rings true for works that are larger than depicted in print or on-screen and for works that involve layer upon layer of paint.  In a print, the texture, action, and layering of color is lost.  The impression that the artist felt when the painting was created is lost entirely when it is not viewed as a painting but rather a cheapened reproduction.  Benjamin also stated that the authenticity is interfered with, which changes the outcome of the art’s effect on its viewer.

Those who have seen paintings  in museums or in homes know that the brush strokes, the details , and the colors are all most authentic up close; no photograph or print can ever reproduce those details exactly. Even works by unknown artists or those who have not achieved fame comparable to that of Monet are still best appreciated up close, in person, and in the original form as intended.  Although works are made more available through mass media, some, or most, of the effect is lost in reproduction.  It is beneficial educationally to expose art to the masses, but only with caution and an expression of the importance of seeing the real thing as well as the prints.  The creation of art and the viewing of art make for an experience that is unique and special, and both get lost when they are mass-produced.


Billy Madison through Freudian eyes

•02/09/2010 • Leave a Comment

Too Young at Heart

Freudian theories of jokes in relation to the unconscious and the reasons for deriving pleasure from jokes can be examined through all types of media, and in movies in particular.  Comedies play on the ideas of repression and regression and use childish humor to bring laughter into adult and adolescent’s minds alike.  This is especially true of Adam Sandler’s comedic style and the films he is involved with, from production and creative contribution to acting and playing lead roles.  Adam Sandler’s film “Billy Madison” is about Billy, heir to the family business and fortune, a character who spends his days drinking, lounging by the pool, and goofing off with his friends.  Billy’s father, Mr. Madison, finds his son lacking and Billy is forced to prove his worth by successfully passing all grades of school in two weeks, from Kindergarten through twelfth grade.  As Billy works his way through grades, he also goes through stages of development and deals with the turmoil and humor that students of various ages face.  As a study in Freudian theories of jokes and their relation to unconscious processes, Adam Sandler’s “Billy Madison” uses humor and sarcasm as fuel.

The Billy Madison character lives the life of a child who never had to grow up.  He acts in childish ways while still having characteristics and urges that are more adult in nature; thus providing examples of almost every stage in Freudian developmental theory.  The first stage of Freud’s psychosexual stages of development is the oral stage, in which a child is fixated on nursing and the functions of the mouth.  In it, subjects are sometimes characterized by a tendency toward sarcasm.  The character of Billy Madison, played by Adam Sandler, uses sarcastic humor throughout the film. He mocks fellow classmates, teachers, and people in a position of authority.  He also is the butt of the jokes in many scenes.  Freud uses repressed childhood urges and their presence in the unconscious as a design for the formation of jokes.  He states that people form jokes as expository comments or as hostility masked in humor.  Throughout the film, Billy Madison is either the butt of a joke or is making jokes as masked hostility himself.  Billy uses a joke as a form of hostility in the scene in which he mocks a child in one of his classes who is stuttering.  Although most of the children in the class know that Billy is the student who is out of place, he makes friends by mocking other students.

Many of the jokes take the form of innocent jokes, as described by Freud who describes such jokes as non-tendentious and not hurtful or expository in nature.  The scene in which Billy is in the bathtub and staging a fight between shampoo and conditioner is an example of an innocent joke. It is funny for the content alone, not because it is hurtful to someone or exposing something hidden.

Even when Billy turns to the water fixture swan and says, “Stop looking at me, Swan,” there is no inner meaning to the joke; it is just absurd and funny.  Freud’s ideas about the unconscious processes and their involvement in the formation of jokes can be applied to Billy Madison scenes in which every childhood fear and embarrassing moment is exposed and then made fun of, either using Billy Madison’s character as fodder or in his mockery of the other students and the school system.

Madison’s character has a neurosis throughout the film involving a penguin.  It can also be examined through the lens of Freudian thought.  The penguin appears during moments in which Madison is either sun poisoned or drunk, or facing people by whom he is intimidated.   Freud may assume that the penguin is a way for Madison to project through humor.  Madison uses the penguin as an internal defense mechanism of projection for his own misgivings.

This film uses several different forms of humor that can easily be categorized using Freud’s theories.  Also, the character of Billy Madison can be better understood using Freud’s psychosexual stages of development.  Billy Madison must ultimately prove his father and the rest of the community wrong to be viewed as an adult and gain respect; he has to leave behind his place as a child and become a man.  This may be viewed as a form of overcoming the “Oedipus Complex” in Freud’s phallic stage of development.  However this movie is viewed, it would be very difficult to keep from laughing, no matter how the jokes are viewed or through which psychoanalytical lens a person is watching.

Billy Madison. Dir. Tamra Davis. Perf. Adam Sandler. Universal Pictures, 1995. Film.

Freud, Sigmund. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. The Standard Edition.    New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1960. Print.