To eat or not to eat, that's a question.

In today's class, we discussed Kafka's "A Hunger Artist" (1922) as an allegory of the misunderstood artist in the age of alienation. The modern artist becomes the "fallen" artist because he can no longer have a reciprocal rapport with the world and the public; he feels alienated from the world which no longer appreciates his art. Once upon a time there was no fallenness; poets in the past were deemed as "prophets" who could enter the superior realm of the sacred and the ideal. The fallen status of the artist is caused by the sense of isolation triggered by the modern age. The artist symbolizes a "grand refusal"; he is a martyr figure who refuses to compromise with the shallow, vulgar, sensation-and-spectacle-hungry fellow human beings. Therefore, the question of eating should be examined symbolically and to eat or not to eat becomes an ontological question. In a world without spiritual values, starving is a piece of cake for the hunger artist who cannot find the sustenance he needs.

In today's society, the symbolism of hunger is still prevalent. Although we have arrived at capitalism's "promised land" in which commodities are abounding and material developments are unprecedentedly advanced, we are also living in what is possibly the most emotionally depleted society in history, where the only "satisfactions" seem to be sunk in materialism or consumerism. The more we buy,the more we consume, the more we feel spiritually depleted.

An interesting question arises: if we can use a more dialectical way to look at eating disorders--the most self-destructive body project in today's youth culture, how do we make of the phenomenon of the starving women who embody the extremity of hunger that terrifies us, and who insist that they are not hungry? Could it involve a more complicated tangle of cultural or ontological issues? Instead of blaming those women for blindly obsessing with thinness, could we say that anorexia is really something deeply symbolic of what is wrong in our culture?

In her documentary Thin, director Lauren Greenfield explores the deadly desire to be thin. In the interview with the director, we can listen to her exploration of the issue of female physicality in the US culture. What do you think when Greenfield argues that anorexia is not just about the food or the body image, it's about something more complicated?


On Black Masculinity

In this video, you can see the documentary done by Byron Hurt and his view on the shifting paradigmn in the definition of "black masculinity" after Obama's winning bid for the U.S. president. Write down anything that's interesting or inspiring. For example, why does Hurt think Bush affects the same macho posturing as the rapper 50 cent?

web resources:Black Public Media


Obama's Speech on Race

The outcome of American presidential election just revealed: Barack Obama was elected America's 44th president. He is the nation's first black president, which is a landmark in American history that has been steeped in racial tensions. His impressive victory says a lot about America.

Obama often discussed his biracial biography — son of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya — and argued that he could bridge the country's long-standing racial divides. The following link will lead you to Obama's famous speech on race:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/18/obama-race-speech-read-t_n_92077.html
And here is his victory speech.

You can see how charismatic he is as a speaker. Feel free to write down anything that draws your attention.

Lost in Translation

In Sophia Coppola's 2003 film Lost in Translation, the situation of two outsiders plunged into an alien Japanese culture is vividly depicted. In Angela Carter's "A Souvenir of Japan," although the narrator does not need translation and seems to be more savvy about Japanese customs and rituals than the protagonists in Lost in Translation, she is equally tormented by loneliness and alienation.

How does Carter explore the theme of culture shock in "A Souvenir of Japan"? Do you agree or disagree with her portrait of Japanese culture or her feelings toward Japan? Or have your ever been in a situation of an outsider, feeling dislocated and alienated as Carter's narrator feels?