目前日期文章:201010 (5)

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     Two striking forms of subversion find expression in feminist discourses. They are the anti-narrative and parodic strategies respectively, which are aimed to fight against the patriarchal discourses. 

     Let’s see the anti-narrative strategies first. Feminist art practice, inspired by feminist critique, is imbued with the “carnival” spirit. As a challenge to coherent narrativity in the symbolic order, carnival is linked to Nietzschean Dionysianism for both aim to subvert all hierarchies in the official world: “A carnival participant is both actor and spectator; he loses his sense of individuality, passes through a zero point of carnivalesque activity and splits into a subject of the spectacle and an object of the game. Within the carnival, the subject is reduced to nothingness”(Moi 49).The carnival transgression as shown in this passage aims to deconstruct the unified subject. It generates the anti-narrative strategies in the postmodern culture. In Kristeva’s opinion, the carnivalesque structure parodies and relativizes the rational metanarrative, thereby threatening the hegemony of the monologic discourse (Moi 50). The carnival spirit is therefore celebrated by postmodern thinkers as the life source that renews any dominant discourse and orients them towards new perspectives. The very dialectical relationship between the dominant and carnival discourse is manifest in the contest between the patriarchal and feminist discourses. The once monologic, phallocentric discourse is now facing a serious challenge from the carnivalesque element in feminist art, which effectively employs the deconstructive strategies in postmodern culture.

     According to Wolff, the techniques of postmodern art, such as self-reflexivity, alienation effect, montage, and parody in fact inherit the energetic revolution of modernist avant-garde (203). In MTV and feminist cinema, the anti-narrative technique of montage is devised to subvert the dominant narrative paradigm in patriarchal culture. According to E. Ann Kaplan, the incoherent flow of short segments on MTV transcends the dominant binary oppositions encased in classical realism (35). The hierarchy of masculine/feminine is debunked through the stream of “jumbled, hectic signifiers for which no signified was intended or has time to be communicated” (36). With the incoherent flow of images, MTV invites the spectator to participate in the Dionysian ecstasy of a decentered or fragmented self. The spectator’s schizophrenic stance therefore implies the Dionysian ego transgression, achieving the aesthetic state of “the blissful ecstasy that wells from the innermost depth of man, indeed of nature, at the collapse of the principium individuationis” (Nietzsche 36). The same challenge to narrativity finds another expression in the feminist cinema. In many feminist films, the montage technique of Eisenstein and alienation effect of Brecht are used to problematize female spectator’s identification with on-screen images of women. Such anti-realist strategies involve the female spectators’ detachment from the projected female images on screen, so that their collective fantasies can be released, achieving the Dionysian ecstasy of self-oblivion (Wolff 204). The anti-narrative art forms convey vividly the poststructuralist challenge to the humanist concept of a coherent, autonomous subject as the source of meaning. By projecting the incoherent, free-floating images of women, feminist art as manifested in MTV succeeds in dissolving the male representation of a fixed and unified female subject.

     Parody is another effective strategy for feminist artists to combat the patriarchal culture in which they exist. According to Linda Hutchen, parody, by reappropriating the already existing representations, reveals that all cultural forms of representation—literary, visual and aural—are ideologically grounded (3). She discerns the subversive power of parody in feminist literary texts. Christa Wolff’s Cassandra, for example, parodically rewrites Homer’s Trojan war by transferring the narrative point of view to the formerly silenced Trojan women (101). By recontextualizing the patriarchal, monologic discourse, such a parodic rewriting adds a new perspective to the old text. The parodic visual art, paintings and cinema also effectively throw the male representation of woman into question by the strategy of intertexuality (112). According to Judith Butler, gender parody, such as drag, cross-dressing and gender performance on TV or MTV, serves to undermine the fixity of gender identity. The gender meanings, once taken up in the parodic styles, are denaturalized and mobilized as a fabrication of cultural mechanism (338). Madonna’s MTV, Material Girl, is a parody on a Hollywood film by Howard Hawks, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. By combining “seductiveness with a gusty kind of independence,” Madonna adopts the postmodern feminist stance to challenge the reification of gender relations under the patriarchal discourse (Kaplan 37). Through the fluidity of sexual identities, gender parody implies the possibility of complex and generative subject positions for females (Butler 338). In a sense, gender parody echoes Derrida’s concept of the contingent meanings of signs by transcending the patriarchal representation of an essential “woman” into discursive “women” across different space and time. In Wolff’s opinion, parody prevents feminist art from being marginalized and ignored because it is directly engaged with the dominant cultural form (203-4). Feminist artists employ the parodic strategy to represent woman as always at odds with what already exists in the patriarchal discourse, so that woman cannot be defined in any fixed form but only as the “not” of the patriarchal representation. Refusing to define a unique female identity, feminist feminist parodic artists illustrate the poststructuralist feminist critique on the discursive meanings of “woman.” The parodic form recontextualizes the dominant patriarchal discourse and effectively arouses a critical reassessment of it. It is like the Dionysian spirit, which “never comes into play as itself but only as the dialectical or symmetrical Other to the Unified Subject” (Schulte-Sasse xi). Thus, through the appropriation of postmodernism, femininst art has become a site of ideological contest to denatrualize the patriarchal representation of female bodies.

     Feminist critique and art practice are significant in that both address the problem of sexual identity. With the postmodernist commitment to retrieve human dignity and rights, feminist discourses have succeeded in deciphering the hierarchical social relations where men are involved as agents while female counterparts function as their mirror. With feminist discourses, both men and women will become aware that their subjectivity is in fact a social construct. They need not take established meanings, values and power relations for granted. Feminist discourses are not particularly addressed to women. They help us to see how patriarchal power is exercised through subject positions.

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Prologue

In the play Blue Bird, each person is said to be born with a gift from their previous life. A pair of lovers are unwilling to be separated from each other when their life comes to an end. Before they embark on the journey for next life, they are anxious to know how they can recognize each other in afterlife. The woman says, “I’ll take the gift of ‘sadness’to my next life so that you can recognize me easily.” So, from generation to generation, “sadness” becomes a distinguishing mark of lovers. The couple without true love have no such privilege! And happy is the man who can do without love all his life, for he carries no such gift as “sadness” from his previous life. 

 

Hunchbacked and stammering on the outside

He had lost all sense of human warmth and coldness

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     Susan Sontag’s comments on photography are so penetrating!

     For those hard-working people, taking pictures enthusiastically on vacations means to appease the anxiety of not working. They are supposed to have fun on vacation, so they take pictures, which is a friendly imitation of work.

     For a family, not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference, just as not turning for one’s graduation picture is a gesture of adolescence rebellion. We like to take pictures of kids when they are so small and cute. That’s to record the youth and vigor which will fade away with the passage of time.

     The same thing with taking pictures of a beautiful landscape. We record the space which we do not possess, so that later, when we look at the picture, it is as if we owned the fantastic sight there. Everything shot by cameras is our belongings. Therefore, to record is to possess; taking pictures is nothing more than a gesture to claim the ownership of space and time.    

     For most people, photography is not practiced as an art. it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power. Having a camera has transformed a person into something active, a voyeur! The adjustable lens of a camera are just like the penis of a male---to extend and to shot is to invade. How terribly true it is!!

sontag


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Sadism is not a name finally given to a practice as old as Eros; it is a massive cultural fact ---which constitutes one of the greatest conversions of Western imagination: unreason transformed into delirium of the heart, madness of desire, the insane dialogue of love and death in the limitless presumption of appetite

(Madness and Civilization, 210)

     In the film, Quills(鵝毛筆), Marquis de Sade is portrayed as a victim of social hypocrisy. Indeed he is, in the way he is tortured by the ward guardian, who makes a fortune by publishing his writings after he dies miserably in the asylum. Analyzed from the perspective of madness, Sade means more than a victim of Christian morality. He reveals the true essence of madness, as Madeleine, his devoted reader in the film claims, “You can't be a proper writer without a touch of madness, can you?”

     What is madness after all? Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, shed some light on this. It is “menace” and “mockery”, a “ridicule of men,” an “extreme self-attachment,” “fantastic invention” and “raging animality.” Sade is an outstanding combination of all these symptoms. First of all, Sade can be regarded as a “menace” or “mockery” of Christian theology. When the abbe accuses him of murdering Madeleine because his filthy words drive an inmate to kill her, he retorts, “Suppose one of your precious inmates attempted to walk on water and drowned. Would you condemn the Bible? I think not.”By mentioning the Bible, he is not only taunting its sacredness but also congratulating himself on his influential power as God. Like the Bible, his pornography is irresistible in its seductive power. Hereby, he shows the first sign of madness—the vain presumption about oneself. Another example illustrates his incurable illness of self-attachment: “Are your convictions so fragile they cannot stand in opposition to mine? Is your god so flimsey, so weak! For shame.” The “convictions” refer to the faith of Christianity, which emphasizes the importance of morality. This argument with the abbe implies that Sade is raising his banner of perversions against the moral teachings of God. He is inflated with pride, as he considers himself a stronger competitor in this battle of faith.

     Another argument with the abbe also embodies how he is disgusted with God: “Why should I love God? He strung up his only son like a side of veal. I shudder to think what he'd do to me.”In Sade’s view, the whole teachings of Christianity are based on hypocrisy, with God as the main exemplar. It’s only he, the erotic poet, that can grasp the truth of life: “I write of the great, eternal truths that bind together all mankind. The whole world over, we eat, we shit, we fuck, we kill and we die.” And he further justifies himself by saying that “[i]n order to know virtue, we must acquaint ourselves with vice. Only then can we know the true measure of a man.” Sade embraces his pornography as the true reflection of humanity. By recording the evil side of human nature, he exposes the true essence of virtue. Christian theology is nothing more than a moral treatise. His perverse writings, in contrast, are more effective in highlighting vice and virtue. In his opinion, the two are inseparable elements of human life; one cannot exist without the other. Here, the extreme self-attachment of madness finds full expression in Sade

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「小太陽的願望」這部影片,和古希臘詩人荷馬的史詩「奧德賽」,有著微妙的相似處,筆者將它稱為迷你的現代版「奧德賽」。

     首先,「小太陽的願望」 中,全家人所乘坐的福斯迷你巴士,等同於「奧德賽」中的返鄉船隻。兩者所承載的人,心中都有所追尋;前者要讓家人在選美比賽中勝出,後者是征戰多年的士兵,極欲返鄉和家人團聚。巴士或船隻,皆是一種能幫助主角追尋夢想的工具。「奧德賽」的追尋,是典型英雄式的探險,必須藉著主角的智慧與勇氣,一路斬妖除魔,才能得到榮耀的勝利;「小太陽」的追尋,是反英雄式的,是小人物在現代社會中渴望擁有的東西---親情。兩者在追尋的主軸下,各自開展出精采無比的故事。「小太陽」雖沒有「奧德賽」的刺激冒險,但家人間彼此心靈的交會,自我的解放,在在引人深思。相對於「奧德賽」的刀光劍影,「小太陽」有的是家人與朋友之間的口角爭執。因爭吵而了解,因了解而體諒、寬恕,最後一家人學會了互相扶持,彼此接納。

     兩部作品有相同的追尋主題,也同時表現同舟共濟的精神。「小太陽」中有車子拋錨,全家下來幫忙推車的戲。一個人必須伸出援手,扶持另一個人上車,這一幕重複出現了幾次,意味著這趟旅程的意義,在於讓這一家人學習到互相扶持的重要性。另外在途中出現的難關,還包括爸爸遭朋友背叛、哥哥發現自己是色盲無法飛行、爺爺吸食海洛因過量猝死、妹妹遭選美單位的鄙視等。這些難關考驗著這一家人,是否能讓妹妹完成選美的夢想。他們必須爭取時間,及時到達會場,否則妹妹便無法出賽。親情的溫暖終究克服了一切的挑戰,讓爸爸重新振作,哥哥放棄執著,爺爺猝死的悲傷轉換成動力。他們齊心協力,讓妹妹得以在舞台上展演爺爺教她的才藝,那是一場真實的情欲熱舞,也是高貴淑女們所唾棄的通俗文化秀。這一家人最後在舞台上共舞,除了代表對妹妹的支持外,還彰顯了活出自我的重要。別人的眼光、夢想的成敗不重要;要緊的是自己有沒有全力以赴去追逐夢想,有沒有及時幫助需要幫助的人,讓他們在追求夢想的途中,不至於跌得頭破血流,喪失鬥志。這份同仇敵愾、相互扶持的精神,也同樣展現在「奧德賽」中。奧迪修斯多次冒險拯救他的部屬,如逃離獨眼巨人(Cyclop)的島嶼、解除女妖賽喜(Circe)的圈禁、躲避歌唱女妖(Sirens)的誘惑等。英雄和小人物的冒險都必須經歷一些難關,從困難中學習解決之道,才能得到真正的智慧。

     另外值得一提的是,兩部作品中有一項共同的難關,那就是遺忘(forgetfulness)的誘惑。這個誘惑會導致追尋(Quest)的失敗,讓逐夢者無法達成目標,流連忘返於不該耽溺之處。所謂遺忘,不僅是字面上所指,忘記一切的往事而已。它還意味著逃避責任、好逸惡勞、貪享安樂的心態。有多少青年學子,在校時意氣風發,譴責社會亂象;等到有錢有權後,就忘記改造社會的初衷,怠惰卸責者有之,紙醉金迷者更不乏其人。此類之人,都可稱為遺忘的臣服者。安逸對追尋夢想的人而言,是極大的誘惑,必須靠堅定的意志力才能克服。奧迪修斯的士兵們,吃了蓮花島上的蓮花後,馬上忘了家鄉的一切,只想待在這個島上終老。「小太陽」中的爺爺,不想面對安養院的孤獨,於是吸毒成癮,藉毒品忘記生活中一切的挫折與憤恨。毒品和蓮花,兩者象徵的是世人逃避痛苦,趨向安樂的欲望。這種暫時性的解藥,都不是治根的辦法。逃避不能解決問題,只會帶給周遭的人更多的問題。像爺爺的猝死,差點耽誤了妹妹比賽的時間;士兵們不願回家,也耽擱了奧迪修斯的返鄉行程。

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