Friday, September 30, 2011

Short post for (rhetoric of science)

Choose a current issue in science and discuss how rhetoric 'at its truest' as portrayed by Weaver might help us make choices about and/or resolve some of the complexities associated with that issue. If applicable, provide a critique of the prevailing rhetoric surrounding your issue--discuss whether you would characterize it as primarily 'neutral,' 'base' or 'noble.'

G.M.O foods

In a world where the boundaries between Sci-Fi and Science are rapidly blurring, the issue surrounding Genetically Modified/Engineered Foods (GM/GE) is coming to the forefront as a potentially major issue, specifically in the US, as more and more GE materials are created and dispersed throughout the country. The reason the issue is more specifically a problem for the US as compared to most of the world is that GE's are legal for production/distribution within the US (many countries have made it illegal) and secondly the US has no laws that force distributors to mark their products with a GE stamp (again as opposed to most European and many Asian countries whose food has to be marked) so that it is almost impossible to know if the food being consumed is a non GMO product. A third issue that has immerged recently with the unbanning of Alfalfa and the soon to be introduced Frankenfish is the potential for cross contamination of organic foods with these GM strains.

At the current time there are two (obvious) rhetorical focus'. Those against it approach it with the standard concern rhetoric. The opposition likewise follows suit with the 'for the greater good'. A big problem however is the lack of publication of this issue. Once in a while the public sees an article on something big like the Frankenfish, yet this quickly disappears and receives little to no follow up. The problem with trying to apply Weavers idea of 'at its truest' is convoluted as is much of his argument. His ambiguous use of 'greater good' and 'truth' and 'proper art' are such over generalization of a black/white dichotomy yet at the same time is tainted by a seeming lack of understanding of the concepts of subjectivity when such broad terms are used. Who's good are we talking about? The corporations and certain scientists would argue that despite the misgivings of the general populace about GE's that it is in their greater interest due to food supply issues, disease and a host of other ideas. That like children, the masses need to be dragged kicking and screaming to their senses. Isn't it a scientists duty to enhance the life of his fellow humans? So using Weavers theory then this line of rhetorical theory that we need to achieve a "place [that] the highest good man can intuit", then this would be acceptable form of 'Goodness'.

Personally, I might argue against this due to facts such as the Frankenfish has their growth hormone stimulated nonstop from birth and doesn't stop until the day it dies essential doubling its growth in the span of half the time. Yet who am I to argue with the FDA that a food pumped full of growth hormone is bad when they have my "Greater Good" at heart. With that stated then why would I need to be able to discern the organic with GE when the mutations are so obvious a healthy choice? The problem isn't whose rhetoric is right or wrong it's that Weavers sense of 'good', 'EVIL' and 'neutral' is too generalized. If I wanted to be a humanist, I could argue that none of this is conclusive enough to judge. If Weaver's terms had to be used then the corporate aspect would be labeled 'EVIL' and the opposing side 'good'. The issue is that neither rhetorical side is right. When it comes down to it, some of the GE's might be good but since the whole industry is clouded in secrecy and legislature it is nearly impossible to pierce this shroud. It is this shroud that also keeps this issue in the dark. "True Rhetoric" would need to open up the conversation more broadly so that a good sense of cause/effect can be looked into beyond the FDA's 'outside' testers. People need to know what foods they are consuming and be given a choice. But again using Weaver's models creates too many sinkholes and weakness' to clearly apply this functionaly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zombies and the Seven Theses (Part 2)

This monstrosity continues in its redefinition of how monsters work which leads into Cohen's second and fourth concepts: escape and difference. Although Zombies may not always 'escape' in literal terms and although Cohen shows how various singular monsters come back repeatedly in other texts, Zombies typically survive in a different way. Their essence, how they pass their monstrous traits on, is their function of escape. If seen as a collective conscious (or lack of), their trait (whether virus, biological, mystical, etc...) of passing to humans survives their continuous destruction. Their contagion lies dormant, violently passive, waiting for a host to accidently expose themselves in order to start the spreading cycle all over again. The most socially potent aspect that Cohen points out that is applicable to the Zombie mythos is how the Zombie 'escapes' into different texts over the decades, both in how they are created and how they function. The early Zombie was typically created from voodoo or some unexplained phenomenon wherein the current Zombie has very modern creation explanations typically through science as well as the change from slow, shambling horrors to the quicker more violent reincarnations seen today. This shift is a socially important indicator of both our change in science as well as modernizing culturally. We went from a slower society where information was not as accessible to a society infused with high technology, instant data access, twitter/network addicted individuals. This leads to the idea of difference and the Zombies exploitation of xenophobia as a cultural motivator. The new duality they create of Human/Dead exemplifies our social (specifically the US) fear of the unknown. This in fact brings in another binary: USA vs "Other". The idea of Zombie strangely resonates with Edward Said's "Orientalism" and the idea of far east and the "Other". With terror plots ever present in the network media, Zombies symbolically stand for those that are a threat to American culture and way of life. Hence the need to eradicate, well that and to survive, but that too is part of the mythos and symbolism. In order to survive one must kill the "other" first.

This idea of killing brings up the sixth trait, that of desires and the forbidden. Zombies attraction is created from the lack of constraints that they are solely comprised of. What is a Zombie other then the basic primal functions and lower base thoughts. There are no terms to them such as consequences or repercussions. This "egress from constraints" is reciprocated in the human element as a reaction. Cohen sees that the opposing aspect of the monstrous typically "become monstrous oneself" (12) due to the social surroundings. This is never truer then in Zombie lore. If a person isn't changed into a Zombie through contact then they take on the 'monstrous' by their actions: killing, stealing for survival, looting, ignoring laws, etc... Although it could be explained that this is, again, for survival, it is none the less humanity being stripped away leaving behind the distorted.

Through these ideas Cohen finalizes that the monstrous makes us question ourselves. What then do Zombies make us question? Is the use of science going to finally condemn us to a land overrun with the dead? Is society doomed to overconsumption and the passive enslavement by hegemonic forces out for money? Or is the Zombie simply stating that we are all monsters just waiting to be scratched or bitten in order that our inner monstrosity might have an excuse to emerge.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zombies and the Seven Theses (Part 1)

This is a paper that I'm working on that may turn into a longer piece for my final.

Work Sited:

Cohen, Jeffrey Monster Theory Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996

Zombies are not a new concept in terms of horror. In fact they are now one of the most iconic main stream horror monsters on par with Vampires. Yet strangely this mindless, shambling monstrosity encapsulates a higher degree of importance than many give credit. Their simplistic nature and overwhelming numbers hides the depth of symbolism these creatures actually represent. Jeffrey Cohen's "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)" article outlines various cultural exchanges between the concept of monsters and the society that surrounds them and in fact creates them. Zombies, being a part of this monster concept, fits into Cohen's idea/s "that history is composed of a multitude of fragments... [and that the] monstrous body [(zombies)]" (3) likewise fit into this cultural exchange. The seven theses will be briefly examined and shown how Zombies fit into Cohen's overall outline as well as point out where they may overlap.

Cohen begins with the idea that "the monstrous body is pure culture" (4). In this case the Zombies body can be viewed in a couple of ways. Their body that is falling apart can be indicative of a cultural decline in both morality and awareness (Zombies aren't known for their intellect. This leads into the secondary point which stems from the body and that is their bodies desire to consume. In essence the Zombie becomes a Marxist representation of our culture as a consumer/capitalist society. Our bodies need a never endless stream of consumer products; we voraciously eat yet are never satisfied. The consumer self gives way to the third thesis, that of 'category crisis'. The Zombies body defies the ability to adhere to one category. It is a binary, at once human and at the same time undead; both alive yet dead. The idea of 'zombie' violates scientific laws as we know it. In Zombie movies science breaks down because humanity breaks down. Yet where Cohen argues that monsters create a "third term... which questions binary thinking" (6), Zombies unify the multiplicity of humans by creating a new binary: Human/undead. Zombies then are the construct of normative binaries in order to function as a new binary of their own.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Outline of a Derrida Excercise

The easiest way to explain the mad lib is that it is an oversimplification of Derrida's ideas on signifier/signified, that way its understood that it isn't an exact representation but more of a possible example. Derrida has this idea that signifier and signified are, as Sauccer states, arbitrary but on top of that because language is in a constant shift, no actual meaning can be forced on any words. Also because language is shifting, many words have multiple context or meanings and that through translating or even speaking, these loose meaning therefore you're not able to fully explain the meaning of anything, you can only attempt to persuade, kinda like rhetoric's. These fluctuations make it so binary opposition can exist. The mad lib is an example of arbitrary word shifts and a possible way of explaining language shift in an accelerated fashion. Examples of how it specifically relates: in the introduction of Derrida there is mention made about trace. The way this works is that the signifier can illicit any numbers of signified that might not normally match it. This stems from 'trace' connections in past derivations of language which allow for the shifting of meaning to occur. This moves into DifferEnce vs DifferAnce. Originally the pronunciation was the same and the only way to discern the meaning was through writing. So verbal and even contextually it wasn't always obvious, hence meaning is fluid. Language changed and differAnce was pronounced differently to allow for distinction to occur.

Derrida (French speaking parents/Jewish decent) work on this idea of Deconstruction started post World War II (1949) in France. And after that came the Algerian war (54-62) for independence from France, where french nationalism was in constant flux. His initial frame work for what he would later continue was published in the 1960's. Dissemination was published in 1972 after some time in Harvard.

He thought structuralism was limited but had good basic principles that he decided to go beyond. He wants to break everything down to the basic principles, essentially destroying the privileged binary (hierarchy and creating a balanced continuum) He doesn't want to exclude meaning but to allow for multiple aspects to emerge. It's a type of new enlightenment. Believes that old 'truth' isn't working so break things down in order to build it back up the right way

It also is new way of criticizing literature and political institutions The rise of deconstruction happens after WWII and in Derridas personal life the Algerian war, so its criticizing the the literature, philosophy and social/political structure that allowed this these instabilities to happen. Writing, philosophy and government were flawed are what actually allowed wwii happen so this response to this


To make people see a new way of thinking. That more possibilities exist. To destroy narrow mindedness of and/or through binary opposition possibilities. Everything we do is about translation. It really is a way of being able to restructure things that have so far failed to work previously. It also allows literature to transcend meanings that have preceded in the past. In the aspect of the political realm it allows for change to occur without any 'textual' change.