PRECIS: I LIKE having a penis

There are a lot of issues that arise in the film Being John Malcovitch (and many of them relates to the texts we have read). The scene that plays out in the beginning reflects the rest of the movie, in a way. The puppet is upset, and clearly shows his self-disgust when he sees his reflection in the mirror. Then, at the end, he looks up at the puppeteer above him (who looks exactly like him) who controls his every move. The movie portrays a loss of control and the pursuit of happiness, as well as questions the soul and vitality. There are also issues of gender--Craig's wife likes being a man, and Lottie falls in love with her in his body (almost as if the penis was the social lubricant that made it "okay" for them to have sex or fall in love). His wife also talks of the portal as a "vagina"-like hole that transported them to another place---as if they are being reborn, or birthed through the hole to another dimension. The film probes questions about what really motivates us, and our bodies as vessels (and EVERYTHING else as socially constructed). As well, it seems to push the point that we should be happy with who we are rather than try to pretend we are someone else or want to be something we are not.

Word: Portal

The doorway leading into Malkovitch's mind is referred to as a portal by several characters. I found two relevant definitions of portal at Merriam-Webster Online. The first is a "door, entrance; especially: a grand or imposing one" and the other is "a communicating part or area of an organism; specifically: the point at which something (as a pathogen) enters the body." The second of these two definitions is the more interesting. It may be fruitful to think of those who enter Malkovitch's mind as pathogens. Both Craig and Lotte enter Malkovitch for the own hedonistic reasons, and violate Malkovitch much like an infectious agent causes disease and illness to a post.


Remember the time I put strings on you and passed you off as a puppet?

The ultimate coming of age story, except, instead of a pubescent teen with social angst, Being John Malkovich explores the malleable gender and social identity that follows us throughout the extent of our lives. John Malkovich’s semi famed existence is blank slate, an identity tinged with few specifics but enough success to offer limitless opportunity to the puppeteer, Craig Schwartz. The appeal of John Malkovich as a vessel stems from each characters realization that they are a product of social pressures and norms, rather than their own design and desires. As a result, the role of the puppeteer is fitting, as it demonstrates the ways that we, outside the realm of film, can be influenced or controlled, however it seems to insinuate that this adventure is only possible by entering into someone else. The film seems to suggest that only by 'actually' entering someone else can we change our lifes trajectory.

Word - Filing

John Cusak's character applies for a filing job out of desperation. I can't help but associate this with the desperation most literary scholars feel when it comes to categorization of literature nd it's techniques. The article on Stein's piece from last week's class was a clear example of how the undefined is sought to be categorized. It makes more sense that way, apparently. 
In "Being John Malcovitch," very little of the story actually makes sense. It's difficult to classify it as being realistic or fantastical, comedy or drama, didactic or entertaining. The significance of the filing job serves to highlight the ridiculousness of attempting classify such a work as this. 

Precis: A Vacation From Myself

The theme of escapism in Being John Malkovich is very dominant. What pulls the film together is the way in which the average joe feels the need to escape from their everyday and mundane lives. The fact that Charlie Kaufman choose Malkovich to be the vehicle in which people could escape, plays up the idea of escaping for escaping sake. It would be a totally different film if Kaufman had chosen a celebrity such as Tom Cruise. There would be more justification for people wanting to be in a more glamorous world. Kaufman writes scenes to show just how menial Malkovich’s life can be: eating toast, the cab driver misrecognizing him. Craig's wife becomes Malkovich not for his fame, but for his penis. We always want to be that which we cannot.

Cloning Connection

When John enters his own mind, he sees everyone with his head, looking a little like clones. This idea reminds me of The House of the Scorpion, where the main character produces clones of himself inside of cows to then use them as "spare parts" for himself later in life. While Malkovich does not use them as "spare parts" it is interesting that Lotte and Schwartz are obsessed with being inside of John, or rather being a clone of him, since they are not the original.

Another thing that is interesting to notice with the idea of cloning, is that while Malkovich's mind is being occupied he is not really Malkovich but rather a visual replication but a fake him. This demonstrates that while things may appear to be the same from the outside, there can never be a true duplication.

WORD: puppeteer

In Being John Malkovich, Craig is a man who has a hobby of puppeteering. He makes puppets in his apartment and uses them to create a sort of separate reality, a representation of the reality he wants and can create.

OED definition:
-person who operates a puppet or puppets; spec. a person who manages or stages puppet shows. Also fig. and in fig. contexts: a person who controls or manipulates others

Craig's wife, Lottie, asks him to get a job. He takes a job working in a filing office where he stumbles upon the door to Malkovich. Craig can now take his hobby and apply it to his life; a dream he has always acted out but now gets to live. By puppeteering Malkovich, Craig is now able to live out the fantasy he always wanted. However, he involves Lottie, who becomes obsessed with puppeteering Malkovich too. Both Craig and Lottie use Malkovich to be with the woman they love, Maxine. By being in his head, each character pretends they are the representation of the person they have always wanted to be. But, as they interact through Malkovich's head, their outside selves become less defined and "real". The ability to control another person and act out their fantasies through him lead to a clearer reality. The representation becomes all-consuming, until they simply want to get rid of their self outside of Malkovich and become their "real" self inside him. Real life transforms into fakeness and the puppet Malkovich transforms into the reality Lottie and Craig have always wanted and strived for. Puppeteering, which is done by an outside force, becomes internal; it stops being pretend play and transforms into reality.

WORD- Perception- Nick Sexton

Although the word is never stated in the film (as far as I know), perception is a key word in regards to Being John Malkovich. Craig enjoys the experiences of being inside Malkovich, as well as being a common puppeteer, because they allow him to experience what it's like to be in someone else's skin, see what someone else sees, and feel what someone else feels. People who "are" John Malkovich, are able to percieve what it's like to experience life as someone else. They aren't physically John Malkovich, they are experiencing life by way of perception. This movie calls into question the relationship between body and mind. It also forces us to wonder who we are and what governs and controls our actions.

Perception is defined by the OED as "1. a. The process of becoming aware or conscious of a thing or things in general; the state of being aware; consciousness." I think this definition accuretely defines what the people who entered John Malkovich experienced. These people were conscious inside of his head (i.e. they still had their own sense of self; memories, ideas, etc.)

However, the definition gets muddy in terms of the film because the film seems to question ideas about perception by depicting one individual as being inside and controlling the actions of another individual, while still having his own sense of self. Craig demonstrates this when he begins to control Malkovich and chooses to live vicariously through him. Craig knows he is merely the puppeteer of Malkovich and he still is conscious of his own being. All this being said, the film really makes one think about his/her own consciousness. Is someone else implanting ideas and thoughts into our heads? How can we trust our perceptions?


Phrase: Gibbons

“Homosexuality is thought as a threat to the logic of thought itself insofar as it figures the availability of an unthinkable jouissance that would put an end to fantasy—and, with it, to futurity—by reducing the assurance of meaning in fantasy’s promise of continuity to the meaningless circulation and repetitions of the drive.”

Homosexuality as a reality completely intrudes on the world of fantasy. In doing so, it brings a shocking realization that a full turn to homosexuality would result in the end of legacy, permanance and futurity. The end of a name would destroy people’s fantasy of living on forever, and it is not logical to not want to live that fantasy; homosexuality can then be said to be a threat to the logic of thought and a abrupt destruction of fantasy.


PHRASE Just fucking

Queers are the living incarnate of death, the (un)canny, the undead. Queers produce no life. Queers are the antithesis of function. Queers are the Other. Or is queerness just a different interpretation of the same thing? Just fucking. Homosexuals don't have the option of hiding behind procreation when they're horny. They appear "unnatural" as they represent the reflection of society. And this reflection is ugly. But why? Is the reflection actually ugly or is it the truth that hurts? They aren't the Other in the mirror, they are what we are, what we won't be, the way that we are forced to look at ourselves. "Thus is narcissim [narcissism of the Other] the source of the malevolence with with the subject regards its image, the aggressivity it unleashes on all its own representations." (51) Homosexuals mirror the stripped heterosexual desire that they do not want to admit to. "No fucking could ever effect such creation: all sensory experience, all pleasure of the flesh"(41).

PRECIS: Sinthomosexuality, Tiny Tim, and Futurity without Queerness

In Edelman's chapter, "Sinthomosexuality," he defines this title as "the site where the fantasy of futurism confronts the insistence of a jouissance that rends it precisely by rendering it in relation to that drive," with connections to the "sin" of homosexuality or "queerness" (38). This sin can be found in homosexuality's destruction of reproductive futurism.
Edelman utilizes the example of A Christmas Carol, with Scrooge and Tiny Tim to represent queer sinthomosexuality and child futurism. Edelman claims that, it is only through Scrooge's eventual evolution into Tiny Tim's "second father" and renouncing action of queerness that he promotes the "promise of futurity" and vanquishes the death drive through Tiny Tim's survival (46-47).
Regarding the death drive, Edelman claims that narcissism is the main theme of the death drive, in that it "constitutes the hallmark of the future-killing queer" without reproductive futurism through children (50).
Silas Marner is another example used by Edelman to show the pull to renounce queerness and embrace futurism through the security of children.
A final paradox Edelman brings up is that, despite homosexuality's negative label of "future-nagating sameness," it actually bears the difference that heterosexuality does not, in that heterosexuality refuses to acknowledge homosexuality as an existing difference in idea (60). This paradox applies to the idea that reproduction and sex, (which is a stand-in for heterosexuality), have become separated - not in need of eachother to exist within themselves. Therefore, futurism through reproduction does not have to be tied to a heterosexual act.
Overall, Edelman's examples illustrate a "Child + End of Queerness = Future + No Death.

Precis--Sarah Knoth

Edelman takes on some seriously deep issues in Sinthomosexuality. He is in constant conversation with Lacan about the ideas and roles of fantasy, form, and the “sinthome,” which, according to Lacan, is an antiquated way of spelling “symptom” (35). Edelman seems to continually go back and forth on the possible intended meanings of the “Symbolic” and the “Imaginary” and the “Real” (35). Simply put, it seems like Edelman struggles to surmise what he thinks of reality and putting a precise name to it. He speaks of “naming” and how it will continue to survive or not (34). He says that “his name, that is, his surrogate, must take the subject’s place; it must survive, if only in fantasy, because fantasy names the only place where desiring subjects can live” (35). I find Edelman’s ideas to be extremely thought provoking but at times terribly confusing. His whole essay seems to be that of an equation. Fantasy + Desire = Survival. I found the Japanese game described on page 37 to be particularly helpful in trying to uncover Edelman’s thoughts. There is this idea of being able to disfigure something and undo something. If we are able to do these things then it does indeed exist. There is also this other thought that the water created the piece of paper’s image---it made it recognizable (37). It seems like Edelman says that the only way in which we survive is through fantasy. Yikes. 

Can you be sheltered?

Edelman uses the word "sheltering" in reference to the role of fantasy in our lives.

Oxford English Dictionary identifies "sheltering" as: Something that shelters, meaning "To screen from pursuit, attack, blows, etc.".

I like the way that Edelman uses this word "sheltering", letting us know that the sheltering aspect is there to set a frame-work for us to understand fantasy. That fantasy is meant to shock you a bit, however, by setting up the boundaries or "sheltering" within fantasy helps people feel connected to it. In our own lives, think of how parents attempt to "shelter" children from the real world so that they will learn the framework of a successful life so that when the eventually go out into the real world they will see what falls within the framework set up.

Precis, sinthomosexuality

An interesting part of this essay by Lee Edelman comes up early in the essay with a qute from Elias anetti that says, "[He] not only want[s] to exist for always, but to exist when others are no longer there. He wants to live longer than everyone else, and to know it; and when he is no longer there himself, his name must continue" (34). This got my attention beause it seems like a natural desire that I have myself. It also got my attention because when I read it I couldn't help thinking about Tupac Shakur, may he rest in peace. Towards the end of his career Tupac was overly concerned with being remembered, releasing an album titled "R U Still Down (Remember Me)." Why are we so obsessed with leaving a legacy? I would say that it makes us feel like out life has a purpose. However, as this essay shows, it is not an innate, and therefor not in total human nature, desire because there exists a part of us known as the sinthome. What happens with homosexuality, according to a heterosexual view towards it, is that it is stragne because it is death oriented. That is, homosexuality is not a path towards procreation, and therefore, must be a path towards nothing. Well sinthomosexuality then recognizes that we can just simply exist for ourselves. There is a part of us called the sinthome, that we simply identify when we are healthy psychologically, and fall into the trap of believing in when we are living a blind life with a faricated reality. Well, I guess its a good idea to reevaluate ways to look at homosexuality, because there really should be no aversion to it, and it is really interesting to think about how a homosexual might feel about their homosexuality in light that it will not result in offspring or a means to be remembered and live on in future generations biologically.

Word: Jouissance

As I was reading through "No Future", I ran across the word "jouissance" and wasn't sure what it meant. I decided to just go with a rough context definition at first. I soon found it popping up all over the place, so I was forced to go to my old pal Merriam-Webster for a more clear definition, which turned out to be not-so-clear:

"jouis·sance: pleasure, sexual pleasure, orgasm"

While that sort of worked for the context, it didn't seem quite right. I moved on to Google after that, which led me to, as predicted, Wikipedia. There, I found out that the translation causes it to lose some of its connotations in English. It does mean pleasure, but Wikipedia says that it is pleasure that can be "too much to bear". As it is translated in English, it refers more to just sexual pleasure, but in French it has a more complex meaning. As the article states, "It is pleasure and pain together, a feeling of being at the edge. It can indicate a breaking of boundaries, a connection beyond the self. This can range from a mother feeling intense connection with a breast-feeding baby to meditative feelings of oneness with the universe." It goes even further into Lacan's definition, but after a few re-reads I still wasn't completely clear on its exact meaning, though what I found sufficed.


Jouissance, as I had imagined, is a french word. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it with three known English terms, "pleasure : sexual pleasure : orgasm". I think Edelman is using this term with these words in mind but in a broader way of thinking. It is presented as a kind of force that can take on different types and functions within society. It is shown as a tool that affects from a unified body, not a singular person. Edelman uses "fantasy" a lot to signify the pleasurable desires within our ideas of how we function as subjects. But when factoring in homosexuality Edelman warns of an end to this, "Thus, homosexuality is thought of as a threat to the logic of thought itself insofar as it figures the availability of an unthinkable jouissance that would put an end to fantasy-" (Edelman 39). Jouissance is acting as a state of mind focused on desire that can have different characteristics and attitudes.

Precis: Edelman

Sinthomosexuality as Edelman puts it is "fantasy turned inside out." However, he also say that according to Lacan, the term sinthome refuses Symbolic logic and thus is undefinable. Edelman juxtaposes his idea of what sinthome is to Lacan's view by making his own term: Sinthomosexuality, which "by contrast, scorns such belief in a final signifier, reducing every signifier to the status of the letter and insisting on access to joussance in place of access to sense, on indentification with one's sinthome instead of belief in its meaning" (37).
Edelman also discusses this term with homosexuality by means of cultural fantasy and how the homosexual population are often the recipients of violence.
To show the projection of violence and death, Edelman use's Dicken's character, Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Scrooge demonstrates the idea of sinthome and "the real."

Precis: Does ScroogexMarley porn exist?

Edelman, in his essay on Sinthomosexuality, certainly brings up some interesting points about Dickens. Points that, while I'm not entirely sure I would want to concede to, at the very least raise some questions about the extent to which one can go for a metaphor. Edelman brings some much-needed sarcasm to the entire story of "A Christmas Carol," laying criticism upon criticism upon the sympathetic character of Tiny Tim. He even goes so far as to praise Ebenezer Scrooge's original nature, lauding him as a man of true personality. "...the pleasure Scrooge takes, what turns him on, comes in part from refusing to use his nuts to drop acorns from the family tree." Edelman sees something of himself, or, barring that, his sexual preference, in Scrooge, making particular note of his rejection of the typical lifestyle of raising a family and submitting to the wonder of the image of The Child. Scrooge, he argues, is the prime example of the sinthohomosexual, a man who definies himself by what he does not do with his genitals. He laments the loss of Scrooge as a miserly bastard and rages against his assumed role as a second father to Tiny Tim, who evidently represents everything that is wrong with the gay culture as a whole.

One could argue that this is a case of a cigar being, simply, a cigar. While Edelman takes special precaution to argue that Scrooge is not, in fact, bonertowns for his former business associate Jacob Marley, nor is Scrooge completely without merit as an asexual character. Edelman goes into such detail with every nuance of Scrooge's lifestyle that differs from, for example, his nephew's Fred (whose discussion of Christmas actually refers to Scrooge procreating, apparently), that his frantic display of correlations to his own theories seems almost forced. He gets to the point where he almost seems to be asking readers to consider Charles Dickens as a crusader for repressing the homosexual agenda.

I will remember you, will you remember me?

“He wants to live longer than everyone else, and to know it;”

The struggle that humanity faces with regard to their place in history is no small feat. Not only is it required that we surge beyond our predecessors to attain some semblance of temporary greatness, but for others, there is a great desire to ensure that the surge has some staying power within the annals of history. In the absence a great deed, there is one legacy that can be passed on, and that is the name. For heterosexual couples that are, in this sense, lucky enough to have sons, this legacy is easy to attain. For those with less conventional sexual lifestyles, this legacy becomes a challenge in it of itself. Man wants to live on, regardless of the knowledge that death is inevitable. The ability to live on, whether in name or action, is something that many seek, for some however, it is far easier than it is for others.

PHRASE: Homosexuality and death.

The text talks of the "sinthome" and how that relates to queer theory. One of the ideas presented relates the idea of homosexuality with death. It is difficult for a culture to accept homosexuality, because it denotes an end to reproduction (the traditional coupling of male and female), and therefore and end to the future, or "futurity." Lacan calls this an "absence of sexual relation" and homosexuality is thought of as a threat to logic (39). It is the "death" of reproduction, and this idea is extended into the cultural connotation with the sexual preference:

The author writes "...the cultural fantasy that conjures homosexuality, and with it the definitional importance of sex in our imagining of homosexuality, in intimate relation to a fatal, and even murderous jouissance" (39). The example is given of Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer of strictly gay men. Peter Jay called gay men "doomed," which they are (by society). It's a circular effect that relates back to the cultural relation of death with the end of reproduction, and therefore with homosexuals.

Haunted by the vastness of eternity

Reality has it so that our lives have a definitive beginning and end, starting with our birth and ending with or death. How can we transcend such limits? How can we remain after our bodies are gone? Immortality lies in memory. You can live as long as you are remembered. Memory, though, does not lie in the realm of reality, but in fantasy. It is personal and unique; no two people can share identical recollections. The secret to survival lies in fantasy.

"Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved? "