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The domestic sphere is one where privacy is able to be maintained. “Private persons came to be seen as driven by self-interest…Those aspects of people’s lives that particularize their interests came to be seen as inappropriate  to public discussion.” (Warner, 40) It is part of the private sphere because they are in their home. While it is inappropriate to appear self-interested in public discussions in public places, in private places such as the home, it is encouraged.

The overlapping of the public and the private in Bartleby the Scrivener help to reinforce that “the public… is not opposed to the private. It was private…It was opposed to the state.” (Warner, 47). In Bartleby the Scrivener, as Bartleby “makes his home” (Melville, 489) in his workplace, he is not condemned for doing so, he is pitied. The way in which the narrator feels that he is allowed to go through Bartleby’s desk is objectionable. Bartleby is under an Ideological State Apparatus at his work; It is not his actions which are objectionable, but his employers.

Home is often thought of a private space, so when people intrude upon it, it can seem threatening and it is an invasion of privacy. Movies have been made about people trying to burglarize homes only to be thwarted; (such as in Home Alone, the above clip is of the trailer) and magazines thrive on the idea of getting into celebrities homes. To have access to a celebrities house is to have access to their private lives. It is a reminder that celebrities are human: and shows such as “Cribs” tries to highlight this.

It can also be seen as a privilege to gain access into celebrities homes. In “Cribs” the emphasis is placed on the fact that they do have private lives, even though they have a public image- celebrities are human too. The distinction between the domestic (private) sphere and the public sphere are not an issue, it is how others react to the blurring of the two which can cause problems.

The blurring between public and private happens frequently. The way that people choose to react to it is where the issue needs to be resolved.

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Works Cited

Texts:

Melville, Herman. “Bartleby the Scrivener” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction: Shorter Edition Ed. R.V Cassill, Toronto: W.W Norton & Company Inc., 1978. 475-505 Print

Warner, Michael. “Public and Private”

Pictures:

Links:

http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/Literary_Criticism/marxism/althusser.html

Videos:

Dir. NotoriousHEB. “Home Alone Trailer” YouTube, 06 Dec. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK2Btk6Ybm0&gt;.

Dir. CribsWorldNews. “MTV Cribs Tony Hawk” YouTube, 05 Dec. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkjot13p8ow&gt;.

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Work

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https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_DjuNhD_m73E/SBJhdRaP1qI/AAAAAAAADZ8/mtP7rJ4luTg/s400/dilbert.jpg

This comic strip is poking fun of the fact that the workplace is intruding on the private sphere. They don’t need to know about his personal blog, and as the company doesn’t have the right to see his private thoughts, he shouldn’t be fired for them.

The workplace is a public place. It is usually a professional space, and separate from the private sphere. Boundaries are maintained and rules are put into place to keep the division of public and private separate.

In Bartleby the Scrivener, the narrator fails to recognize that boundaries should be kept in place at the office, while he still attempts to maintain the structure of the workplace as an Ideological State Apparatus. He is in control: “The lawyer has in his charge the welfare of Bartleby and others who are not only lacking his considerable material means but who also lack his freedom of choice. ” (Michaelson) He is in charge, but at the same time tries to act on the same level as his employees. He “base[s] [his] domination and exploitation of the ‘people’ on a falsified representation of the world which [he has] imagined in order to enslave other minds by dominating their imaginations.” (Althusser, 39). He attempts to make excuses for Bartleby, and seems to sympathize with him. “Poor fellow! thought I, he means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence…He is useful to me. I can get along with him. If I turn him away, the chances are he will be rudely treated, and perhaps driven forth miserably to starve. Yes. Here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval. But this mood was not invariable with me.” (Melville, 485). He does not care about Bartleby, but about the way he feels as he allows Bartleby to stay. He assumes that Bartleby will be treated worse if he is fired; however, by imagining himself as a sort of saviour to Bartleby he tries to exert more control over him.”The available labour power must be ‘competent’ i.e suitable to be set to work in the complex system of the process of production.” (Althusser, 25) He assumes that Bartleby is not competent but does not send him away because of his generalization- If Bartleby can’t do the work in the office he is at now, he won’t be able to do it somewhere else.

The erosion of boundaries is also connected with queer theory. As the normative workplace functions on the Ideological State Apparatus, and a clear social hierarchy, anything which changes the structure is outside of normative roles or “queer”. The Office is a fake documentary which relies on the queer theory and ideological state apparatus for it’s comedic effect. For example, the manager when describing what an office is, does not define it using the typical normative ideas of work. He describes it as “a place where dreams come true.”

In the next clip, the (new) manager attempts to make an end of the day tradition by putting on a song and singing it. He tries to make a tradition so that the transition from the working sphere to the domestic sphere is easier for the workers. However, this tradition distracts their work as they try to complete it. ” Various contexts demand different kinds of behavior, different roles, and in most social situations performers as well as audiences are generally aware of these roles and their limitations.” (Kornfeld) In his desire to make the transition from the work to the home easier, he forgets that the transition does not need to happen in the workplace. They are trying to finish their work and he is being distracting. The behaviour of the manager is not normal in the workplace, so the others, who are trying to sustain normative roles and at the same time follow the ideological state apparatus are unsure of how to react.

Once they accept the behaviour, the comedic effect is heightened as they have rejected ideas of normality as well. They embrace the new tradition, and it is no longer “queer” to them. It has become a stable tradition, equated with the end of the workday. (“He’s worked here 105 days, so I’ve heard closing time 105 times.” “I used to hate the song, but now that it means that the workday is over I love the song.”) They expect it, and they no longer hold on to their previous idea of “normal” since a new “normal” has been introduced. It is still queer to the audience of the show, and the disruption of the professional atmosphere being possible and normal is humorous.

In this clip, the Office is trying to find a solution to a problem. (The custodian is away, so they have to clean.) When someone finds a solution, (making a chore chart) the employees complain, and so they attempt to control it instead. (They offer other suggestions, “everything is work” offer prizes, etc.) Instead of the chore wheel, the end result is a prize wheel. The workers are happy, but the original problem is not resolved. It dismisses the idea that “the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order.” (Althusser, 25) as Pam attempts to make the office more professional, and instead does the opposite. They do not submit to the rules of the office, and so the production decreases.

The workplace is a location with a purpose. People have roles and jobs which they have to fill. If they ignore the job, they are not doing what they are supposed to. The breaking of boundaries takes the focus off of the jobs and places more emphasis on relationships which isn’t necessary. To be distracted from work prevents their jobs from being done. Even the queerness of “The Office”  becomes normal, to the characters in the show, and so they can still do their work without being distracted.  _____________________________________________________________

Works Cited

TEXTS:

Althusser, Louis “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation)” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, pp. 121-176 2001 Monthly Review Press.

Melville, Herman. “Bartleby the Scrivener” The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction: Shorter Edition Ed. R.V Cassill, Toronto: W.W Norton & Company Inc., 1978. 475-505 Print

WEBSITES:

Kornfeld, Milton. “Bartleby and the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2012. <http://web.ku.edu/~zeke/bartleby/kornfeld.htm&gt;.

Michaelson, Christopher. “Whose Responsibility is Meaningful Work?j.” The Journal of Management Development 30.6 (2011): 548-57. ProQuest Business Collection; ProQuest Education Journals. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

CLIPS:

Dir. sofakingvsjedi “What is an Office?” Youtube. 12 January 2010 Web 29 November 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MrWd–fj7c&feature=related&gt;

Dir. theofficeonnbctv “Wheel of Chores- The Office” Youtube. 27 September 2012 Web 29 November 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjEoO0yvDQs&feature=related&gt;

Dir. zoppe122 “Office “Closing Time” Youtube. 05 November 2011 Web 29 November 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtvzxHGnqw4&gt;

Hello world!

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Have you ever divulged too much about yourself?

Maybe you just started to talk and before you knew what you were saying the person next to you on the plane or selling you a box of cookies had found out not only your name and age, but your family members names, your profession, your dislike of fruit, and your fear of the dark.

Or maybe you were on the other end, listening to someone uncomfortably tell you their life story; and unable to tell them to stop, you just sat there wondering how to respond. It was awkward, to say the very least.

The narration of a story and the narrator in a story can sometimes seem ‘off’. It might appear to the reader as if too much has been revealed, but there is always a reason. Maybe to illicit a specific response, maybe to reveal their own character, (if the narrator is an internal narrator) or to try to influence how reader reacts to the story. Is the narrative voice ethical when it makes assumptions about the characters that the characters have not revealed through their actions or words? Does it change the way we approach the story?

There is a time and a place for everything. What is done at home might not be appropriate in other settings. What is revealed to everybody (like in a newspaper for example) might not be appropriate. What is said, and to whom is of the upmost importance.

When something is in the newspaper, it is in the public eye. The funny thing about the Simpsons headlines is that some are biased, (Lisa’s total wacko, implies father.), some are unnecessary (old man yells at cloud), some are untrue (Bigfoot still at large- and the picture is clearly of Homer) and people still read them. The point of the newspaper is to grab the attention of the people reading it; they are part of a public. “Public discourse, in the nature of its address, promises to address anybody. It commits itself in principle to the possible participation of any stranger.” (Warner, 10) The newspaper will print anything they wish to, as long as the news grabs the attention of the public (the readers) that is all that matters.

The private and the public overlap constantly. Whether it is an article in a gossip magazine about a celebrity’s divorce, or whether it is someone casually telling their life story to somebody they barely even know, more and more people are feeling comfortable with bringing private matters into the public sphere.

With Bartleby the Scrivener, the question that we have to ask ourselves is: Is it ever really necessary to blur the public sphere and the private sphere? Is it ever appropriate to do so? Is “talking about it” the best way to approach a problem or is it better to leave it so as to avoid awkwardness and embarrassment? Are private matters better left in the private sphere or is it just hurting ourselves? Do the definitions of public and private change depending on where a person is (such as at work, or at home), or are private matters always meant to be private?

Well, I’d like to consider one final thought before I start exploring: Why is it that there has to be a time and a place for everything? What is so off-putting to us when we hear someone say “Let’s talk about it.” when we’re out in public?

From newspapers, to narration, to work and the domestic sphere: there is always an overlap of the private and the public sphere, there is always a fine line between revealing too much when nothing needs to be revealed. How responsible are the people speaking (including the narrators in a story) and how responsible are the people listening (including the readers in a story) for determining when it is not the time or the place to act in a certain way?

Hopefully, this blog will help clear some of that up.

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Works Cited

TEXTS

Warner, Michael “Publics and Counterpublics” in Quarterly Journal of Speech 88(4). pp. 413-425. 2002. Taylor and Francis.

CLIPS

Dir. Edward123456789. “Newspaper Headlines from The Simpsons” YouTube, 07 Dec. 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pxslZQiyq4&gt;.