Writer’s Block & Recalibration: Nabokov’s Lolita

My pallet has lost its vibrancy, colours mixed in the wrong equation. My paintbrush has dried up, boar bristles jagged and harsh. My toolbox, playing hide and seek. I stare at my canvas and despise what I have created – dullness – I loath it. The theory has overpowered the aesthetic. The rush has displaced detail, and my lust for beauty is hibernating.

I know it’s there, I’ve written before, and I will write again in the same fashion. Writers Block. A disease. A parasite.

I know what I need, I need a recalibration. I need Nabokov. Na. Bo. Kov. I can feel it working already. I pull apart my bookshelf with appetite. There it is, my compass, my true north. Lolita.

I’m often asked what my favourite book is. I always answer without hesitation, without thought, almost innately. Of all the books, of all the stories, of all the words. Lolita.

Predictably, they ask. Why?

I was 15 when I bought my first copy – I wondered around the second hand book arcade in Newtown for hours, four to be exact. Red heart shaped glasses enticed me – $4.85 and the book was mine. The previous owner was a smoker, the smell of burnt tobacco hitting me as I opened the first page. I imagined who the previous owner was, where they were now, what brand of cigarettes they smoked, and what they thought of Lolita.

When I die, if a supreme being asks me what was the most beautiful thing of my existence – I would recite this paragraph. The opening paragraph.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

And with that, it begins. The words are no longer just words. They are the entire past, present, and future. They are creation and death. They are etherial and otherworldly.

What’s the book about they ask.

It’s about a pedophile I reply, mainly for shock value. I enjoy creating a little controversy, curiosity, and uncertainty.

An orchid growing in a conventional garden is beautiful, but an orchid growing out of decaying and rotten land is more than just an orchid – it holds a different currency.

Beautiful words written about a beautiful topic is still just an orchid in a pretty garden. Beautiful words written about human immorality – that’s when the conversion begins.

I finish the book in three days, and it’s back. The knowledge that words can alter cognition, that even the most immoral concepts can be painted romantically – that I can turn the dull into an orchid.

The Uncanny Valley: Plastic Surgery & Transhumanism

The other day I went to the kitchen tea party of a girl I had never met, I had been invited by her bridesmaid, a friend of mine. I was welcomed into the room by a flutter of overdressed women fussing over drinks and food. There she was, the bride to be – I think my jaw nearly hit the floor as I attempted to congratulate her. I didn’t see a face, I saw swollen cheeks, expressionless eyes, an immobile forehead, a nose so straight that I’m certain its edge would cut you, and lips that were so large that I’m not sure how she was capable of speaking.

I tried my best not to make any judgements, maybe she had been in an accident, maybe she was born disfigured, there had to be some logical and valid reason for this extreme mutilation, that was, until I saw her mother. The mother didn’t even look human. This had clearly gone form a potential accident scenario to an understanding that this was deliberately aesthetic and encouraged. I swallowed my discomfort and began talking to the mother. I felt so estranged and unable to connect to her, she didn’t look human, her face augmented past human resemblance or recognition.

When I got home, I was concerned with how I struggled to connect with these women, how they looked alien and otherly. I began to question this strange feeling, a human – that doesn’t really look human, that felt strangely familiar, eerie and somewhat revulsive.

How do we explain this feeling? It’s such a strange thing to be faced with, familiarity and foreignness, external and internal, physical and theoretical. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I had just spent the evening with something extra terrestrial.

I began to think of the theory of the uncanny valley, how this trope could be placed within the perimeters of humans and their use of plastic surgery. In 1970 Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori proposed in The Uncanny Valley that the more human a robot acted or looked, the more endearing it would be to a human being. For example, most loveable Robot Buddies look humanoid, but keep quirky and artistically mechanical affectations. However, at some point, the likeness seems too strong and yet somehow, fundamentally different—and it just comes across as a very strange human being. At this point, the acceptance drops suddenly, changing to a powerful negative reaction. The Uncanny Valley doesn’t necessarily have to invoke fear though; for some people, the reaction is more similar to unintentional comedy. Either way, you don’t feel the same about that character as you would a human, or even something less realistic.

This trope was reversed with my scenario, the women were human, but appeared strange, this then lead me to think about the purposes of transhumanism. Transhumanism is an international intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.

Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations as well as ethical limitations of using such technologies. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of post-human beings.

Let’s put this into context here, is it possible that the desire for this augmentation could be genetically inherent, for the purposes of survival? If the goal of transhumanism is to use technologies to greatly enhance physiology, then what’s to say that plastic surgery doesn’t achieve that?
Facial symmetry is considered desirable because it denotes a healthy genetic predisposition. Cavemen chose women with the most aesthetically pleasing face, determined by facial symmetry. So, if we now have this technology to alter our facial symmetry in order to make us appear more attractive why doesn’t it work? Is it this idea of the uncanny so creepy that even an aesthetically perfect face breaks the rules of reality? If this is the case, then does Botox, fillers, and facial augmentation achieve to opposite of what it hopes to? Instead of being more attractive, does it take away our human familiarity?


The Anatomy Of Pseudo Desire

I spent almost four years in a toxic semi-relationship, a relationship where the more he didn’t want me, the more I wanted him, and the minute I gave up, he would reel me back in. I was endlessly fascinated by this – I am an attractive, hilariously funny, and occasionally intelligent woman – He was handsome… and that’s about it. What was I doing?

It’s not uncommon, this idea of desiring the unachievable, of transferring a perceived value onto another. Why do we want someone who doesn’t want us? What makes them so special? How can we allow ourselves to fall so deeply for someone that makes us work tirelessly for their affections, only to give us none of it? Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the time old story of the empath and the narcissist, the masochist and the sadist, the chaser and the chased – I can’t tell you why they don’t want you, but I can certainly give you a theory as to why you like it.

Some time ago I picked up Rene Girard’s book called Deceit, Desire, & The Novel. In this book, I developed an understanding of humanity that I otherwise would never have thought about, and ultimately this lead to the discovery of a theoretical answer as to why we want people who don’t want us. This is a five part answer that consists of:

1. The Human As The Imitator
2. Desire
3. Mimetic Desire
4. Conflict And Rivalry
5. The Modal And The Pseudo Masochist

Let us establish that as a species, not only do we learn through imitation, but we incorporate it intrinsically into our desires, and then begin to mimic the desires of others. This is all well and good until there is only one desired item available, and hundreds of people who desire it – here spawns conflict and rivalry, leading to the concept of a perceived value and ultimately, a modal and a pseudo masochist.

In 1977 Andrew Meltzof published the ground-breaking paper “Imitation of Facial and Manual Gestures by Human Neonates” in this he discovered that almost immediately after birth we imitate. Meltzof discovered that:

1. Infants between 12 and 21 days of age can imitate both facial and manual gestures; this behaviour cannot be explained in terms of either the conditioning or innate releasing mechanisms. Such imitation implies that human neonates can equate their own unseen behaviours with gestures they see others perform.

2. Six infants were each shown three facial gestures and one manual gesture, sequentially. Their responses were videotaped and scored by observers who did not know which gesture the infants had seen. The statistically significant results showed that infants of this young age were able to imitate all four gestures.

3. The experiment was ground-breaking because it showed infant imitation of adults at a much earlier age than was thought possible. The study also showed early facial imitation, something previously thought to be impossible at this young age because of its necessarily cross-modal nature. (Infants can see others’ faces but not their own; they can feel their own facial movements, but not those of others.) The findings had implications not only for theoretical psychology, but also for the study of memory, learning, language acquisition, and socialisation.

What does this tell us? It tells us that imitation is engrained into our genetic coding for purposes of survival. This focus on survival is a funny thing, and probably the reason that we are still here. Desire is another concept ingrained into the mechanism of our survival.

Humans are inherently structured to have desire, desire for food, water, rest, and sex. These desires are needed to alert us of either, the necessities needed to survive, or the purpose of our existence – procreation. To further this, as advertising companies have proven, desire can become metaphysical and mimetic.

Girard acknowledges that, while humans have evolved biological appetites that operate at the level of instinct, it is the further evolved capacity for mimesis that most fully accounts for the dynamics of human desiring, whether or not any particular desire builds on or directs a biological appetite.

The most fundamental concept in answering our question is that of ‘mimetic desire’. Ever since Plato, students of human nature have highlighted the great mimetic capacity of human beings; that is, we are the species most apt at imitation. Indeed, imitation is the basic mechanism of learning (we learn inasmuch as we imitate what our teachers do), and neuroscientists are increasingly reporting that our neural structure promotes imitation very proficiently (for example, ‘mirror neurons’). However, according to Girard, most thinking devoted to imitation pays little attention to the fact that we also imitate other people’s desires, and depending on how this happens, it may lead to conflicts and rivalries.

If people imitate each other’s desires, they may wind up desiring the very same things; and if they desire the same things, they may easily become rivals, as they reach for the same objects. Girard usually distinguishes ‘imitation’ from ‘mimesis’. The former is usually understood as the positive aspect of reproducing someone else’s behaviour, whereas the latter usually implies the negative aspect of rivalry. It should also be mentioned that because the former usually is understood to refer to mimicry, Girard proposes the latter term to refer to the deeper, instinctive response that humans have to each other.

Let’s talk conflict. So everyone wants the latest iPhone, and that’s great because Apple made millions of them, but what happens when two friends desire the same person? Generally, a conflict arises and the friends turn into rivals. What happens when two countries fight over a piece of land? War. The land could be infertile, ugly, and irrelevant, but both countries will fight to the death over it because they are rivals – it is one of the many ugly sides of human nature.

Now that we understand all of that, lets get to the point of this article. Why do we want those that don’t want us? There are two concepts at play here, perceived value, and the modal and the masochist.

I’m going to use an example about consumerism, you may argue that people are no things, but in this argument they are. Let’s say that an iPhone costs 3 cents, let’s say that they were as available as an elastic band, how would that change your excitement about getting one? How would that change the value you place on the iPhone? You would probably lose all desire.

In the same way there is a perceived value of a person, if the other person doesn’t want us, their perceived value goes up. They become so expensive that we cannot afford them. So why does that make us want them even more? Because of evolution. It would have been an advantage to procreate with the most valuable mate. Some of us need the obstacle to confirm the value. Those that pursue this logic, come to see their failures as the signs of the proximity to the ideal which they aspire. This can manifest as a heightened experience of the universal pseudo-masochism inherent in seeking the unattainable.

From one perspective, pseudo-masochism can be seen as a kind of metaphysical desire in extremis. In mimetic desire, the prestige of the model is sometimes boosted by his or her seeming indifference toward others. The pseudo-masochist concludes that their rejection by the modal confirms the modal’s supremacy and the absolute desirability of what the modal desires. The pseudo-masochist looks for objects whose value is conferred and confirmed by the resistance encountered in attempts to attain them. Where a model serves initially as an obstacle to the consummation of a desire, the pseudo-masochist eventually will seek the obstacle itself—the model is valued because of the obstruction that he or she can provide. If the model no longer possesses an obstacle, the pseudo masochist loses their desire for the modal because they no longer hold value.

After those horrible four years of damage, constant insecurity, and emotional turmoil I realised that I didn’t actually want him, I wanted the obstacle that he posed, I wanted the challenge.

Love shouldn’t hurt like that.

The Curse Of The 27 Club

Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse have many commonalities. They were all iconic musicians, avid drug users, profoundly talented, and all died at the age of 27. Is it possible that they made a deal with the devil? Fame in exchange for their souls – death deciding the collection date. Is this a curse, or is it merely a conspiracy theory of a cultural phenomenon?

The 27 Club, as far as documentation shows, began in 1892, and up until today has claimed 63 members. Membership to this elite club has specific conditions:

1. You must be a musician
2. You must be 27
3. You must be talented on a level that supersedes this dimension.
4. Not a necessity, but highly recommended: Have a drug problem.

Of these 63 members, there have been deaths that could be considered unusual in nature, while others more common – especially considering the typical lifestyle of a rock and roll star. Further research finds that of these 63 members, death has been the result of:

10 Drug Overdoses
10 Car Accidents
7 Murders
5 Suicides
4 Aeroplane Accidents
4 Heart Complications
4 Instances Of Poisoning
2 Cancer
2 Instances Asphyxiation

There have also been some other more unusual deaths, such as:
Neurosyphilitic sclerosis, electrocution, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, injuries sustained by falling off a horse, pulmonary edema, disappearance, subarachnoid haemorrhage, kidney failure, and accidental blunt traumatic asphyxia.

My question however is, of these deaths, while they may not be directly caused by drug use, how many of these can we link to the use of drugs? Without going into each individual case, lets take a logical look at these causes, and see if it is feasible that they could have some link to drug use.

Car accident – driving while under the influence?
Murder – did they owe drug dealers money and got killed for that?
Suicides – is it possible that there was an adverse chemical reaction in the brain causing depression and ultimately leading to suicide?
Heart complications – after many years of hard drugs, is it possible that the heart just gave up?
Asphyxiation – Jimi Hendrix overdosed on drugs and asphyxiated on his own vomit, so I guess there is a possibility that there is a direct link to the use of drugs to the majority of these deaths.

Apophenia is the tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns between seemingly unrelated things. It’s part of our genetic makeup to do this, we have this tendency built into us because it is part of our survival mechanism. We have this for two reasons, firstly, as cavemen, we needed to recognise patterns in order to survive, for food, water, and shelter, secondly, much later on we needed to find purpose in our existence – religion is the the pinnacle of finding patterns and attributing meaning to the perceived connections, it gave us god, an subsequently purpose, something that the pre-literate man needed in order to rationalise their existence.

I would love nothing more than to find out that Amy Winehouse made a deal with the devil for her voice, offering up her soul for a sound that can make my hair stand on end, a sound that hits me to the very core. To know that Jimi Hendrix wasn’t an ordinary man who just learnt how to play the guitar – but that talent like that came from the supernatural, that’s why I could never possess those kind of skills, not because I lack the talent or discipline. It makes us feel better to know that there is something sinister behind their creativity, to think that they cheated in some way. This is just a small insight into the strange world of humanity, and the strange things we do in order to survive.

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

You slowly open your eyes as a new day begins, sleep stuck in the corners of your eyes. The first light of day seeps into your room as you attempt to pull the heavy blankets forward and get out of bed. No matter how hard you try, you can’t move, the panic building as you realise that from the neck down, you’re paralysed.

You scream, calling for help, but a deafening silence engulfs you. Suddenly, a heavy mass plants itself on your chest, tightening your breath and suffocating you. This is it, this is how it ends. The panic overwhelms you, and eventually you wake up covered in sweat.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to sleep paralysis.
One of the most basic things humans need in order to survive, is sleep. We all do it. Regularly.

For some, however, sleep can be plagued by fear, panic, and pain.

When we fall asleep there’s a switch in our brain, think of it as an on/off switch, the switch is used to paralyse us while we sleep, this is done for two reasons, firstly, to protect ourselves from injury, and secondly to allow our bodies to fully focus on recovery and rest.

This is all well and good, but for people who suffer from sleep paralysis, there’s a glitch in the system. Parts of the brain that should be off activate while the paralysis switch is still turned on, making for a neurological shit-storm. The brain is awake, the body is paralysed, and you’re still asleep.

It is important to note that time is suspended in this realm, a ten minute nap, can be a seven hour ordeal in dream land.

I’ve experienced sleep paralysis my entire life and I’ve developed some handy tips and tricks that I think are essential for all my fellow sufferers to know.

The Stages 

I’ve discovered that there are three phases or types of sleep paralysis, they are often repetitive for me so I’ve drawn these conclusions on the patterns I’ve recognised.

1. The Panic
This stage is the most basic level of this disorder. It’s exactly like the description in my introduction. You’re paralysed, unable to speak, and afraid. You may experience a choking feeling or a weight on your chest.

2. The Pain
Now we enter the unfathomable – this is quite common for me, and usually what I experience. During these episodes, I am never alone, there is always someone, or something, hurting me.

The problem is that my brain is awake, so I feel all of it. Not only am I paralysed, but I’m also being tortured – and I can feel every inch of it. I’ve had dreams where an alligator has bitten off my arm, and when I woke up, my arm (where it was bitten in the dream) was in excruciating pain for several hours. I once spent what felt like eternity having a scalpel peel off every inch of my skin, again waking up in a throbbing pain.

3. The Persistence
Of all the stages, this one is the worst. So you go to sleep, wake up in stage one or two, then you actually wake up, go about your day, only to find out that you’re actually back in the paralysis. You’re tricked. You think you’re out, but you never were.

Let’s take the example used in the introduction, let’s say I actually pushed the blankets back, got up and out of my bed, and then found myself back in bed with the covers on – and this happening over and over again. Like Groundhog Day. One time I had it so bad, that my lines of reality were blurred beyond recognition that I had to call my dad and make him answer questions about my childhood so that I knew I was really awake.


Temperature is the biggest one for me, the chances of sleep paralysis rise by 50% if it’s summer and I’m too hot when I sleep. So make sure that you don’t have too many blankets on and have a well ventilated room.

Over Tired
Another biggie, when you’re tired that switch flips harder, making the transition from awake brain and paralysed body easier.

I have noted that 60% of all my episodes are in that 10 minute gap between my initial alarm and my snooze alarm, 7:00 and 7:10, in that 10 minutes, I have had a four hour sleep paralysis dream that horrifies me. It could be about a break in the sleep patters or something to that effect.

Late Night Feast
My personal trigger is cheese, pizza specifically late at night almost guarantees sleep paralysis for me, I don’t know the science behind it, but it’s definitely something to take notice of if you have chronic episodes.

The Solution

Ladies and Gentleman, I have discovered a solution to phases one and two, this technique is my saviour. Much like Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, I have a similar concept to a totem, but of course in a way that is respective of the situation. Let’s take that introduction example again, I managed to wake myself out of it once I realised and confirmed it was a dream, the jig was up. Now everything in my room was so vividly accurate, except for a red book that was on my bookshelf, I know all my books off by heart and recognised the fallacy. I knew immediately that it was a dream, and woke up from its hold.

So my solution to you, is to look for the mistakes, force yourself to acknowledge that you’re asleep, this will calm you, and stop the cycle so that you can wake up.

Euthanasia Or Merciless Extinction?

Firstly it is important to clarify that in this scenario this is an otherwise healthy individual, who desires to die as they have a possibility of having dementia. It is not clear what type of dementia this individual may have, but for this argument I will set the parameters of dementia as an umbrella term covering the genetic specific types of dementia, these include vascular dementia and lewy body. Both are terminal, progressive and irreversible. There are many strong arguments for this patient to be denied active euthanasia; these include the wedge argument which is proving true in the Netherlands where euthanasia is permissible and the rule utilitarianism argument which favours the greater good of humanity rather than in individual cases such as this.

The argument could be made that society should encourage passive euthanasia rather than active as it is permissible to withhold treatment and allow a patient to die, however it is never permissible to take any direct action designed to kill the patient. This argument doesn’t fulfill the purpose of a humane exit because if one simply withholds treatment, it may take the patient longer to die, and they may suffer more than they would if more direct action were taken. Being allowed to die is relatively slow and painful whereas given a lethal injection is relatively quick and painless.

Many people believe that killing someone is morally worse than letting someone die; this is because being the cause of someone’s death is regarded as a great evil. This concept is refuted by Rachels’ scenario of the man who intends to murder his cousin by drowning him, in one scenario he proceeds to drown his cousin to gain an inheritance while the second scenario he has the same intention but the child slips, falls and drowns, the man did not actively kill him but stood by and watched as the boy drowned. Both actively killing a person and allowing them to die hold the same moral weight (Rachels 1975).

Beauchamp does make some strong points in response to Rachels’ thoughts, he explains that in the first case, death is caused by the agent, while the second is not, yet the second agent is no less morally responsible. However he argues that cases envisioned by the AMA and agent is held to be responsible for taking life by actively killing, but is not held to be morally required to preserve life and so not responsible for death (Beauchamp 1989).

Beauchamp discusses the reasons for alarm in response to Rachels’ article; he explains the repercussions of the wedge or slippery slope argument and recent arguments in defence of rule utilitarianism. He explains that;

“… If killing were allowed, even under the guise of merciful extinction of life, a dangerous wedge would be introduced which places all “undesirable” or “unworthy” human life in precarious condition. Proponents of wedge arguments believe the initial wedge places us on a slippery slope for at least one of two reasons; it is said that our justifying principles leave us with no principled way to avoid the slide into saying that all sorts of killing would be justified under similar conditions. Second it is said that our basic principles against killing will be gradually eroded once some form of killing is legitimated. For example, it is said that permitting voluntary euthanasia will lead to permitting voluntary euthanasia, which will in turn lead to permitting euthanasia for those who are a nuisance to society. Gradually other principles which instil respect for human life will be eroded or abandoned in the process. (Beauchamp 1989)”

Furthermore rule utilitarian’s argue that following rules that tend to lead to the greatest good will have better consequences overall than allowing exceptions to be made in individual instances, even if better consequences can be demonstrated in those instances. When these two arguments are combined it is more than enough reason to deny any patient active euthanasia, for the lack of respect for human life is detrimental to society overall regardless of its effects for an individual.

It is legally permissible for physicians to perform euthanasia under the euthanasia law that was introduced to the Netherlands in 2002. One of the requirements of due care of euthanasia is that the patient’s suffering is unbearable and hopeless, but there is no consensus about the extent of the suffering of demented patients. Most physicians do not consider dementia as grounds for euthanasia in itself, but they sometimes think that it could be if a demented patient with an advance euthanasia directive suffers unbearably and hopelessly from an additional illness (Schadenberg 2014).

It is evident however that Beauchamp’s concerns about the wedge argument are coming to fruition. In 2013 the Netherlands released information that stated that there was a 15% increase in voluntary euthanasia. It is evident that the wedge argument is already being fulfilled. The reasons for euthanasia in the Netherlands have begun to unravel. For instance:

– Recently the euthanasia clinic was reprimanded (not shut down) for lethally injecting a woman because she didn’t want to live in a nursing home.

– Dutch pediatricians want euthanasia extended to children under 12.

– A healthy woman, who was going blind, was euthanized because she was obsessed with cleanliness and feared being unable to clean the dirt on her clothes. (Rurup 2005)

There are only a few places where euthanasia is legalized to a degree and those places stand as a testament to what Beauchamp predicts in his argument, “…Gradually other principles which instil respect for human life will be eroded or abandoned in the process (Beauchamp 1989)”.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition predicted that there would be a continuous increase in the number and reasons for euthanasia after the Netherlands euthanasia lobby launched six mobile euthanasia teams. The mobile euthanasia teams claimed that they would fill the “unmet demand” for euthanasia for people with chronic depression (mental pain), people with disabilities, people with dementia and loneliness, and for those whose request for euthanasia was declined by their physician (Rurup 2005). This is proof that the fear of the slippery slope argument is justified as it is already taking place where euthanasia is a developed concept. There is also evidence from The Netherlands, now available in the official Dutch reports, and in a recently published research piece by the English legal academic John Keown, which provides conclusive evidence of abuse, of the slippery slope that Singer, Kuhse and others have denied would be the case. The Dutch reports contain abundant evidence that doctors kill more without their explicit request than with their explicit request, and that euthanasia is not restricted by the so-called “strict medical guidelines” provided by the Dutch courts (Flemming 1992). If these strict medical guidelines have already been corrupted how can we have any faith in the future of this concept? The answer is we cannot. It is a slippery slope that is already turning into and avalanche in the Netherlands.

Theo Boer, a Dutch ethicist who had been a 9-year member of a euthanasia regional review committee recently wrote an article explaining why he has changed his mind and now opposes euthanasia. He explained how the Netherlands law has expanded its reasons for euthanasia and how the number of euthanasia deaths was constantly increasing, turning euthanasia into a perceived right rather than an exception. Boer stated in his recent article that “I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with twelve years of experience, I take a different view. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.” (Schadenberg 2014)

It could be argued that the individual in this scenario could meet the requirements to be euthanized as dementia is a disease that causes death of brain cells and eventually brain failure, rendering them incapable of understanding the nature and effect of being actively euthanized. This is where it would be argued that an advance directive is crucial.

An advance euthanasia directive is a written request for euthanasia made by a patient, intended for a situation in which the patient has become incompetent. Compliance with the advance euthanasia directive of a demented patient is defined as the administration of drugs with the explicit intention to hasten the death of the patient at the explicit request of the patient, as stated in the advance euthanasia directive. However most physicians think it inconceivable that they would ever comply with the advance euthanasia directive of a demented patient were that, for patients with dementia, an advance euthanasia directive is not a valid request, they argue that a demented person becomes a psychologically different person and that therefore the previously competent person does not have the right to decide about the currently demented person.

It can also be interpreted as a simpler objection—that the advance directive was formulated at a time when the exact situation in which they would be used was not known, and therefore it is not certain that the patient would really want what is specified in the directive because he or she was unaware of the eventual situation. The other argument, that euthanasia for a patient with dementia is unacceptable, can be based on these same arguments, but it can also be based on religious beliefs or a more general philosophy of life (Rurup 2005).

Essentially society should not facilitate the humane exit of this individual – or any individual. Rachels makes some convincing arguments, however Beauchamp counters these with arguments that have been proven, such as the wedge argument and rule utilitarianism. Beauchamp’s argument is further justified as we can see the progression of euthanasia and the slippery slope effect that is happening right now, unjust reasons for euthanasia, corruption amongst physicians and euthanasia turning into a perceived right rather than an exception.

If we allow euthanasia to be permissible and accessible it will surely be the demise of the respect for human life. Society should not facilitate the death of this individual with a family history of early onset dementia but rather accept the fact that we are organic matter and allow this individual the follow the course that their body has paved for them in order to preserve the respect for life.

Referenced Material

Beauchamp, Tom. “A reply to Rachels on active and passive euthanasia.” Contemporary issues in bioethics, 1989: 107-115.

Flemming, John. “Euthanasia, The Nethrlands, And Slippery Slopes.” Bioethics research notes ocasional paper 7 (1992).

Rachels, James. “Active and Passive Euthanasia.” New England Journal of Medicine, 1975: 490-497.

Rurup, Mette .L. “Physicians experience with demented patients with advanced euthanasia directives in the netherlands.” Journal of America Geriatrics Society 53, no. 7 (july 2005): 1138-1144.

Schadenberg, Alex. National right to life news today. 29th September 2014. http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2014/09/netherlands-2013-euthanasia-report-15-increase-euthanasia-for-psychiatric-problems-and-dementia/#.VUL7GE2KCUk (accessed April 2015).

Vertigo: A Feminist Theory

Alfred Hitchcock, a man who frequently employed Freudian theories uses these theories in the film “Vertigo”. For this analysis multiple psychoanalytical theories were put into used to represent thoughts if feministic approach to the film, these include; Oedipal complex, the ego, the mirror, an uneven look, the gaze and phallogocentrism “penis envy”.


Firstly one must consider the Oedipal complex within the perimeters of a feminist theory, this theory has been crucial to feminism for two reasons; it explains why women throughout history have been considered negatively and have been lass powerful within patriarchy and also because it illustrates that the gendered positions are culturally produced and can be changed.

As far as Vertigo is concerned, this concept is a perfect example of the male gaze and voyeurism. As Mulvey points out “the male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure which is styled accordingly”. The fact that the woman is the object of the male gaze shows that he is the active subject, the woman lacking the phallus and thus gaining access to the symbolic order vicariously, through the male passively, therefore her look is to be looked at. The man is the owner of the phallus and thus occupies a positive position. He is bearer of the look, he looks, the narrative is therefore about him, and it is his narrative. The woman is thus made by his image.


But what is it about the gaze? The process of the look (of classic Hollywood narrative) attempts to pacify the threat and in doing to attempts to violate women. This is because woman is without a phallus and therefore comes to symbolizes either mother or other to the male subject, representing threat of castration, the look is a controlling mechanism created as a symbolic tool against the threat.




North By Northwest: Modernism & Hitchcock

The concept of modernism can be understood in the film by Alfred Hitchcock, “North by Northwest”. The film can be understood as modern in two different aspects, the first being cultural and the second being technological. The cultural aspect is seen through the movies’ use of unconventional themes of deception, mistaken identity and the technological aspect can be seen through the use of filming, set design, costuming and editing and post production.

Alfred Hitchcock typically uses a certain style and mood in his movies, but his typical style of darkness, uncertainty and horror was broken by the film North by North west, he stated that he wanted “something fun, light-hearted, and generally free of the symbolism permeating his other movies.” This statement can be seen as an offence to the movie as it is full of symbolisms’ and it is these symbols which make the film modern. Even the title can be seen as symbolism it is a reference to the play Hamlet, a play which is also unbalanced by the concept of reality.

The most important plot element which represents the idea of modernism as a cultural form in the film is the idea of the “MacGuffin”. In an interviewed in 1966 by Alfred Hitchcock, he illustrated the term “MacGuffin” he popularized both the term “MacGuffin” and the technique, with his 1935 film The 39 Steps, an early example of the concept. Hitchcock explained the term “MacGuffin” in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: “[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the ‘MacGuffin’. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers” It is evident that North by Northwest uses this plot element to engage the audience and does so perfectly this idea of the “MacGuffin”, the physical object that everyone in the film is chasing after but which has no deep relationship to the plot. Late in North by Northwest, it emerges that the spies are attempting to smuggle microfilm containing government secrets out of the country. They have been trying to kill Thornhill, who they believe to be the agent on their trail, “George Kaplan”. Indeed, the fictitious Kaplan himself could be the “MacGuffin” of the film as Thornhill, as well as the villains, spend most of the movie vainly trying to track him down. This new concept of plot is an imperative example of modernism within the film North by North West.

An important example of modernism throughout the film is the use of the concept of theatre/play acting, where everyone is in on the reality of the story, except the central character. Each character plays a part, but no one is who they pretend to be. This is reflected by Thornhill’s line: “The only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead.” There is a constant reference to the idea of “playing/acting” and this is also a modern ploy to confuse the audience between reality and fiction.

Not only did this confuse the audience but also confused the actors. In the role of Thornhill, Cary Grant was distressed with the way the plot seemed to wander aimlessly, and he actually approached Hitchcock to complain about the script. “I can’t make heads or tails of it,” he said (unwittingly quoting a line that Thornhill utters in the film). This quote is very adequate in explaining the element of the film, nothing is what it seems, nothing is black and white, but all shades of grey.

The second important aspect of demonstrating modernity in North by Northwest is the technological aspect. Elements such as filming, set design, costuming, editing and post production are all used in order to make the film modern. North by Northwest took place between August and December 1958 with the exception of a few re-takes that were shot in April 1959. It is important to know that this was the only Hitchcock film released by MGM. This is important as it is relevant to the direction of the film. Hitchcock said that MGM wanted North by Northwest cut by 15 minutes so the film’s length would run under two hours. Hitchcock had his agent check his contract, learned that he had absolute control over the final cut, and refused. The film was made in Paramount’s VistaVision widescreen process, making it one of the few VistaVision films made at MGM. Another important aspect of technology and culture was the fact that one of Eva Marie Saint’s lines in the dining car seduction scene was redubbed. She originally said “I never make love on an empty stomach,” but it was changed in post-production to “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” It is said that the censors felt the original version was too risqué.

The United Nations Headquarters is the site of a scene in the film. At the time, the United Nations prohibited film crews from shooting around its New York City headquarters. Hitchcock used a movie camera hidden in a parked van to film Cary Grant and Adam Williams exiting their taxis and entering the building. This technique, even though it wasn’t planned was really effective in creating a sense of concealment and the audience gains a feel for the movie. This technique is modern for the time and therefore displays how the technique is a tool for how the film represents modernism.

It is clearly evident that through both aspects of the film, culturally and technologically, that the film displays modernism. Through plot elements such as symbols and the “MacGuffin” theory Hitchcock redefines films and cinema, not only are his films modern of the time but also greatly influential to other films which come later.

Referenced Material

Alfred Hitchcock. North by Northwest, 1959
Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/239856?redirectedFrom=MacGuffin#eid
Video of Interview. http://www.gointothestory.com/2010/07/mcguffin-by-hitchcock.html

Did the French Revolution succeed?

In answering the question as to how the French revolutionaries succeeded and failed with their ambitions, it is important to address certain questions such as; what were the French revolutionary’s ambitions?, how did they succeed and fail those ambitions?, what was the real prepose for the revolution? And how did the old regime contrast with the revolution?

The French revolution left an enormous impact on politics, an impact that is seen even in today’s Western politics. The French revolution created the concept that enabled individuals as free and independent members of political communities to become involved in politics, it also created the concept that the government depends on its capacity to present itself successfully as based upon an agreement of the whole people, as people, to run their affairs in particular fashion.

The French Revolution was spread over the ten year period between 1789 and 1799. The primary cause of the revolution was the disputes over the peoples’ differing ideas of reform. Before the beginning of the Revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by the people. An example of why they wanted this was because of king Louis XIV’s actions. At the end of the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV’s wars began decreasing the royal finances dramatically. This worsened during the eighteenth century. The use of the money by Louis XIV angered the people and they wanted a new system of government.

The revolutionaries said that not one official in power was corrupt, but that the whole system of government needed some change. Eventually, when the royal finances were expended in the 1780’s there began a time of greater criticism. This sparked the peasant’s notion of wanting change. Under the Old Regime in France, the king was the absolute monarch. Louis XIV had centralized power in the royal bureaucracy, the government departments which administered his policies. Together, Louis XIV and the bureaucracy worked to preserve royal authority and to maintain the social structure of the Old Regime.

Some historians believe that the revolution was made to destroy religion, however it is evident that it was essentially a social and political revolution, the intentions were not to perpetuate disorder or to make anarchy into a method but rather to increase the rights and power of political authority. It is believed by some historians that the only effect from the revolution was the abolishment of the feudal/political institutions and replaced them with a more consistent social and political order. Even though it was clearly a political and social revolution why did it act like a religious revolution? The French revolution must be compared to a religious revolution in order to understand it. The characteristic traits of a religious revolution are clearly seen in the French, not only was it a widespread revolution but it was also spread by preaching and propaganda.

Religious revolutions usually intend to regulate the relationship between man and God, and the general rights and duties of men towards each other. The French revolution operated in precisely the same manner that religious revolutions have acted, it considers the citizen in an abstract manner, outside of any particular society as does religion when it considers man in general, independently of time and place. It is possible that the revolution itself became a new kind of religion, it had no God, no ritual, no place of worship and no life after death but regardless of this it “flooded the earth with its soldiers, apostles and martyrs.”

In order to understand how the Revolution came about and what the revolutionaries ambitions were it is necessary to understand the context of French society and politics over the preceding century. It is important to know that while the revolutionaries thought that they were turning the course of “French history on its head” it is possible to make a strong case on the fact that the revolution had followed and extended many trends of the previous hundred years as Tocqueville argues. Tocqueville points out that the old regime encompassed all the aspects of hierarchy, superstition and subordination of previous centuries, and that the role of Revolution was to sweep this away, and bring instead order of legal equality, philosophical modernity, and political freedom. This point is misleading as the era prior to the Revolution is one of steady modernisation and bureaucratisation of political rule in France, under the rubric of ‘absolute’ monarchical rule.

The system known to contemporaries as ‘absolutism’ was different from previous forms of monarchy primarily because monarch claimed absolute sovereign authority – this meant that the final political responsibility always rested with the monarch, rather than being divided among different bodies, or between monarch and nobility. One chief impulse behind this was religion: to avoid warfare between religionists, monarch would both impose a state religion upon the whole nation, and decree the terms upon which religious toleration extended towards minorities.

Tocqueville points out that the striking thing about half a century prior to 1789 was the emergence of this loose assemblage of intellectuals as a kind of unofficial political opposition. Absolute rulers monopolised political and public life, but on whole left ‘private’ debate and argument alone. This ‘private’ world of debate was not as private, but as the really important sphere of argument it outlined a vision of the world very different from the world-pictures articulated either out of the monarchical court. It articulated its view of the world as a broadly philosophical perspective on life, universe and everything the perspective we know as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment along with Romantic Movement can be associated with a main key element in our modern society, a belief in independent reasoning and thought by individuals as the basis of the development of nations and peoples in culture, intellectual life and politics.

In Francois Furet’s “An idea and its destiny – French Revolution – 1789: An Idea That Changed the World” he describes the process of the revolution which is fitting he explains that it began with an idea and its destiny, then the ambitions of the revolutionaries that were bordering on folly, the idea of equality: dream or reality, the rights of the citizen, the compromise, the emergence of the individual, the democratic dynamic and the price of freedom. Furet argues that the French Revolution was an attempt to legislate in the name of universality. Its aim was the emancipation not only of the French but of all mankind. To this extent it was an event that was not merely of national but also of international scope, not simply a political but also a philosophical revolution. One of the ambiguities of the revolutionaries’ ambition to emancipate humanity springs from the fact that their vision of the world was very Eurocentric. When the French spoke of the universal, they meant by that the bulk of Europe together with the European appendix consisting of the newly-independent former British colonies of America. This was the extent of their horizon. The whole of the nineteenth century continued to be marked by Euro centrism, even for men like Marx, who spoke of the universe whilst thinking of Europe. Between Britain, Germany and France everything was covered. Even within Europe it was better not to go too far south or too far east so as not to tarnish the concept of universality. There can, then, be no doubt about it, the French Revolution legislated in the name of European man.

There is, however, another sense in which the notion of the universal must be understood: its abstraction. There is nothing tangible about universality; it is an abstraction just as universal man is abstract man. The Revolution declared that man had no reason to enter into society unless that society guaranteed him the autonomy, the liberty and the rights which were his before he entered into the social contract. In other words, for the Revolution, the essence of man is his liberty, his autonomy and the fact of his acceptance only of laws imposed by himself. Society must guarantee to each individual all the rights that are his by virtue of his status as a man. This is an extraordinary ideal, completely general and therefore entirely abstract.

Thus these rights are formal, abstract and deduced as it were from the natural state of man. The ambitions of the Revolution, as we can see, bordered on folly, since they were in contradiction with the true state of society and of man. Therein, in large part, lies its tragedy: in the enormous contradiction between the universal rights it proclaimed as being inherent in the status of man and the actual state of society with its poor and its rich, its dominators and it’s dominated.

Were the ambitions of the French revolutionaries successful or did they fail? It is both, as it did achieve some success but also failed. In its immediate results it was a failure, because it led to several rapid changes of regime, culminating in military dictatorship, the Napoleonic Empire and the restoration of the monarchy. In the long term, and after further revolutions in 1830, 1848 and 1870, it led to the firm foundation of a French republic, but it took nearly a hundred years.

Death Of The Author: Sylvia Plath & Sir Thomas Wyatt

Is Knowledge of both writing and reading contexts important to our understanding of texts?

In answering the question as to whether or not the knowledge of both reading and writing contexts is important to the understanding of texts, I have chosen to use the texts ‘The Hind’ by Sir Thomas Wyatt[1] and ‘Daddy’ by Sylvia Plath[2]. In order to understand why both reading and writing contexts are important to the understanding of the text we must compare and contrast the differences and similarities within these two pieces of writing. In my essay I will also refer to the essay by Roland Barthes, “the Death of the Author”[3] as his insight into the re-contextualizing of texts is important in answering the question.

When looking at a text we must consider the context it was written in, the historical, cultural, social and intellectual surroundings of the time. When reading a text synchronically we are virtually reading it at the same time it had been written and thus understand its context, but when we read a text diachronically the surrounding context impacts the meaning that future readers will derive from it[4]. This relationship between text and context is highly dynamic and therefore the readers all bring their own individual interpretation which then re-contextualizes it.
Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet ‘The Hind’ was written in the sixteenth century, being read in sixteenth century context the sonnet is about his feelings for Anne Boleyn, which he refers to as the deer, and the fact that she is betrothed to Henry VIII, who he refers to as “Caesar”. In the writing context, the metaphor of the hind, the hunt and Caesar is important as at the time Wyatt could not write about King Henry VIII. The poem conveys his frustration and exhaustion in this grand chase, clearly it is more than the hunt of a female dear and in the last four lines his vocabulary turns more literal and honest:

“… And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
and wild for to hold, though I seem tame… “[5]

She wears a necklace with diamonds spelling out the last couplet of the poem, a phrase from the Latin Vulgate: ‘touch me not’, for I belong to Caesar, a warning against interfering or against touching her, this is also a reference to when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, and asked her not to touch him, this also has a biblical reference.

When reading this text diachronically it is evident that the meanings and ideologies based around this poem are not the same, for example the theoretical ideas by Bennett and Royle, in the chapter Sexual differences[6], argue that this sonnet is about gender stereotyping and the metaphor used is about dominance and submission, “ [the] Man is the hunter, [and the] Woman is the hunted”[7], she is even referred to as a hind, not a woman but a female dear, ready to be hunted by a man. The man is the subject and the woman, the object. Bennet and Royle introduce the idea of essentialism[8], the idea that there is essentially one deference between male and female, boys and girls, women and men, this notion consists of biological (men have a penis and women do not) and anatomical differences, this idea that men are strong active and rational and the female is weak, passive and irrational.

Also the form the text is written in, it is written in sonnet form a technique used in that period, not so much today this also shows evidence of the context it was written in as it would have been written differently in 2010.

Bennett and Royle explain in the chapter 14 “History”,[9] that “literary texts belong to no particular time; they are universal and transcend history” throughout time a text gains different types of discourse (biblical, classical, colonial, philosophical, scientific and military) in this respect we can consider the idea that a series of overlapping discourses and codes re-contextualise the meaning.

In Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”,[10] Plath shows her intense emotions towards her father and husband, the structure of this poem seems to be written throughout her entire lifetime as it starts at the beginning when she loses her father, her emotions at that stage were still naïve, then replaces her father with a man who parallels him in personality and habit. Throughout the poem she begins to wizen up to the men in her life and begin illustrating her aggression and hatred. The use of strong metaphors and the references to the holocaust, and Nazism show that this poem was written with the intentions of referring to the Nazi War, another aspect of written context.

Sylvia Plath uses many symbols to draw the readers attention to the cultural and historical problems of the time that this poem was written in, such as; the swastika and Meinkampf, the reference to Hitler (historical) and the Devil (biblical), Plath is making it very clear the this poem is about her hatred for Nazism and her dead father. Throughout the poem we see Plath begin to grow, from the voice of a child, to the voice of a strong woman. In the last three stanzas she says “So daddy, I’m finally through”[11] and reinforces this epiphany with, “Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through”[12] and after this the beat has changed, Plath has finally come to terms with her issues and has finally let it out.
This poem is clearly refers to the war and the way in which it has affected her, this is important as it provides evidence that the space around the author is pulled into the text i.e. Nazism and biblical references.

In the chapter the author by Bennett and Royle,[13] they examine the ideas by Barthes’s essay “the Death of the Author” he explains that the author is not god and that the author is not the end of the meaning to the text. Barthes ends his essay with the proposal that with the death of the author gain the birth of the reader, this quote from the essay explains in depth;
“We know that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and crash”.[14]

This extract of the essay is relevant to answering this question, as it explains that there are multiple layers of meaning given to the text by the author and then again by the reader who interprets and adds their own meaning, therefore also giving a reason as to why reading a text diachronically and synchronically is very different.

In the sonnet the Hind by Sir Thomas Wyatt, it is evident that both reading and writing contexts are important to the understanding of the text; we can see that when reading the sonnet in today’s world we understand that it is about gender-stereotyping, but when we learn what it is really about (Anne Boleyn) we can see it through the eyes of Thomas Wyatt, the author. When we read the poem by Sylvia Plath we can see how the world around the author affects the writing and meaning, through symbols and imagery Plath manages to suck us into her world of Nazi’s and bad fathers, even though we are reading it in today’s time. It is clearly evident that the knowledge of both the reading and writing contexts are important to our understanding of the text, as with the “Death of the Author”, we gain the “Birth of the reader”[15].

Referenced Material

[1] Sir Thomas Wyatt. “The Hind”, the Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. 1932. (Reader pg 34)
[2] Sylvia Plath. “Daddy”. Ariel, Faber and Faber, London 1968 ( Reader pg 98-99)
[3] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 3, the Author, Pg 23.
[4] Lecture notes, Week 2, vUWS website, English Text and Writing, 2010.
[5] Sir Thomas Wyatt. “The Hind”, the Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse. Oxford at the Clarendon Press. 1932. (Reader pg 34)

[6] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 20, Sexual Differences, Pg 179-187.
[7] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 20, Sexual Differences, Pg 181.
[8] Ibid
[9] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 14, History, Pg 117-127.
[10] Sylvia Plath. “Daddy”. Ariel, Faber and Faber, London 1968 ( Reader pg 98-99)

[11] Sylvia Plath. “Daddy”. Ariel, Faber and Faber, London 1968 ( Reader pg 98-99)

[12] Ibid
[13] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 3, the Author, Pg 23.

[14] Ibid
[15] Bennett and Royle, An introduction to literature, criticism and theory. Chapter 3, the Author, Pg 23.