Block 2A: Sorry I was absent today - I asked you guys to blog, and here's what I want you to discuss in your post:
Below I'm going to explain the ideas of our final critic, cultural theorist Rene Girard, who relates to all the lenses, but has a special resonance with the Theological analysis of literature. His theory will guide our reading of The Crucible because it resonates with the events that inspired it: the Salem Witch Trials, and the 1950's "Red Scare."
After reading the explanations/watching the videos below and taking notes, please post the following:
a. Explain how Girard's theory is reflected in the story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment."
b. Identify a connection between this theory and the "Red Scare" described in the videos.
c. Give another example from life, history or fiction that reflects Girard's theory.
(Examples - Bullying, The Holocaust, Clarisse from F451 . Now you can't use any of those!)
Girard's basic idea is this:
Human beings are imitative creatures, which lets us form groups, but also makes us hate and fight each other.
(Read the summary linked above first, then my explanation below - links there are helpful videos/images)
You read "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," a story in which three men compete for the same woman, each made jealous by the previous one's flirtation with her. Eventually, their rivalry turns into a fistfight, which destroys the pitcher full of precious magic water. Rene Girard thinks this is essentially how humans are - competitive, violent and self-destructive. Most of us feel a nagging sense of lack (psychoanalytic influence of Lacan) and think if we had what someone else had, it would make us "whole" like them. So we desire what we see those we wish to be like desire, which means we end up wanting and fighting over the same things (which can be objects, or lovers, or positions of status - anything that we think will make us as cool, special and popular as that person).
Sometimes this jealousy becomes contagious, because everyone starts to want the same thing (Mean Girls), or everyone lines up on two sides of a rivalry (World War I). This can only be solved by "sacrificing" a scapegoat figure who everyone can agree to blame (Cady in Mean Girls, Germany after WWI). That is the "hidden" truth of every society: the sacrifice of some Other to maintain social cohesion, either in the past (like Oedipus in Greek tragedy) or in an ongoing way (like the child in the basement of Omelas).
Notice that this relates to...
-PSYCHOANALYSIS: Girard is describing the human id as fundamentally imitative ("mimetic desire"), and therefore competitive/violent - hence he agrees with Freud that humans will always need a superego. He thinks societies' superegoes are structured to prevent the outbreak of id-driven rivalry that can tear a society apart.
-FEMINIST/POSTCOLONIALIST: Girard describes how the murder of a scapegoat is justified through some kind of social construction or "cultural narrative" that makes them into a dangerous Other. In The Crucible, Tituba is the first scapegoated, and the vast majority of the accused are women.
-STRUCTURALIST (SEMIOTIC): This NEW lens sort of does to a text what Freud did to the mind: creates a unique, structured framework of elements to analyze it. The Archetypes, though based in Psychoanalysis, represent an early Structuralist approach to lit-crit. Structuralists are especially concerned with lanuage and patterns, possibly across a genre (ex. the short-story plot triangle approach) or within a text (deciphering the "logic" of symbols or repetition of certain words). Girard offers the structure of Triangular Desire (desiring subject-desired object "mediating" model). He also looks into myth for examples of the "scapegoat mechanism," which recur throughout traditional literature ("motif"). In most cultures, such sacrifices are woven into religion, like the murders of Salem Witches. Of course in our recent history, scapegoats have been mostly political. One such situation led Arthur Miller to write The Crucible in 1952: the infamous "Red Scare," aka "McCarthyism"...
Videos on the Red Scare (they are short - watch all three)
-Overview (words/images, no narration)
-Footage of Hearings (with narration)
-Arthur Miller discussing the Red Scare (from 1971)
-Simpsons Parody of Salem Witch Trials (similarities?)
-I will check your notes on this next class. I'd also like to see that you have basic notes on the Puritan religion.
There are clear connections between these circumstances and Girard's ideas, which I will leave you to explicate. But first, there is one more twist to his theory: Girard, a Catholic, explicitly moves into THEOLOGICAL territory and upholds Jesus as the solution to our problem. This is not meant in the Protestant sense, where simply having faith in Jesus is enough to save your soul. Instead, Girard upholds Jesus as a model of nonviolence. If we are going to imitate someone by nature, then we should imitate His refusal to resent, be rivals with, or pursue revenge against others (meaning, He made no other person into "the Other"). This is why some Catholic Saints described Christian ethics as "the imitation of Christ" (imitatio Dei). Do any characters in the Crucible do this?
"History, you might say, is a test for mankind. But we know very well that mankind is failing that test... We must face our neighbors and declare unconditional peace. Even if we are provoked, challenged, we must give up violence once and for all" - Rene Girard (quote links to summary F.A.Q.)
ALSO: We'll be starting The Crucible next class, so think about whether you'd be willing to play a part!
Ministers - Reverend Parris, Reverend Hale
Powerful Men - Putnam, Gov. Danforth, Judge Hathorne
Lower-Class Men - John Proctor, Giles Corey, Francis Nurse, Cheever/Herrick
Girls - Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, Mary Warren
Women - Mrs. Putnam, Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Tituba
PREVIOUS NOTE: Last class, I forgot to add that the 5 Sentence Patterns sheet I handed out at the end of class requires you to come up with a simple sentence and then write it in the style of the sentence patterns here. So come up with a simple subject/verb statement, and then write it in each of the 5 styles on the front, then with the variations on the back. This shouldn't take very long at all, and if it is and is confusing you, then just do the front and you can fix the back part in class. So, in addition to the two Puritan pieces to SOAPSTone ("Sinner in the Hands..." and "Wonders of the..."), please complete those sentences. If you didn't hand them in today, please drop them off anytime tomorrow.
Mr. Justin Biggs