spaces of the senses

In today's class, we discussed Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" and his picture of a happy world of senses. In the poem, Keats is listening to an unseen bird whose presence cannot be located but can only be "heard." The sense of sight must yield to other senses--the senses of smell, taste, and hearing. In stanza 5, the poet writes:

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Here we are first introduced with the sense of smell, in the form of "soft incense." In darkness, the poet cannot identify the flowers, but the darkness is "embalmed," which means "fragrant," and the seasonable fragrance helps Keats guessing the identity of each odor. As the lines continue, the poet anticipates the tasting of the "dewy wine" coming from the musk-rose, which also attracts the insects, whose "murmurous" sound suggests the sense of hearing.

From what has been analyzed above, you can see that the sense of vision is dethroned from its privileged dominance in the hierarchical realm of the senses. What have been given a priority are the senses that used to be subordinated to the predominant sense of seeing. Why does the poet debase the sense of "sight" and elevate other senses? In today's culture in which the sense of the visual dominates (as manifested in the ubiquity of TV screens,advertisements, neon signs, photographs, visual images) and eclipses other senses, can we say that we modern people have somehow lost our ancient capacity of hearing and smelling? Which sense do you trust the most? Do you believe that "seeing is believing"? or do you mistrust the sense of sight and, instead, favor other bodily perceptions such as touch, taste, smell,or hearing, by which you navigate the world?


Is Barbie a bad influence on girls?

Barbie turns 50 years old this week. For some young girls, Barbie represents an ideal of perfection. However, for some social critics, Barbie has a toxic influence on female children because the doll sends the wrong message to female children who mistake the anatomically fantastic Barbie dolls as the true ideal of beauty. In Marge Piercy's "Barbie Doll," the girl tried to change her appearance to fit the commercialized notion of body image and ended up in a tragedy. In West Virginia, a state lawmaker proposed a bill last Tuesday to ban the sales of Barbie dolls. The following news article comes from msnbc.com:

The Barbie Ban Bill, proposed by Democratic Delegate Jeff Eldridge (D) Lincoln County, says such toys influence girls to place too much importance on physical beauty, at the expense of their intellectual and emotional development.
"I just hate the image that we give to our kids that if you're beautiful, you're beautiful and you don't have to be smart," Eldridge told West Virginia news station WOWK.

The delegate concedes that the chances of getting the bill passed are slim, but adds that he stands behind it.

"I knew a lot of people were going to joke about it and poke fun at me," Eldridge said. "I couldn't get anybody to sign on the bill with me but I said I'm still going to introduce it."

A Mattel spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Barbie doll officially turns 50 on March 9, and the toy maker has made big plans this year to mark the anniversary.

Barbie has had her foes over that half-century. Critics say the doll promotes materialism and an unnatural body image.

The bill has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

What do you think? Do you agree with Jeff Eldridge? or do you think it goes overboard in the issue of body image?