Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prompt 1 - Karen Knutson

In Marcus’s On Dimensional Man, he makes an argument that due to our technologies literature has changed in terms of ‘disruptive’ characters and their position in society. He states their difference as “perform a function very different from and even contrary to that of their cultural predecessors. They are no longer images of another way of life but rather freaks or types of the same life; serving as an affirmation rather than negation of the established order” (Marcuse 3). However, this statement seems to be an extreme overgeneralization. Even if the characters are culturally different when written in our technological age, its hard to believe that all of them agree with the societal order in life. In Neuromancer, we learn of a character named Case, who during the course of the novel, defies this overgeneralization and has a duality of these two natures, which neutralizes Marcuse’s argument.

In the beginning of the novel, it seems as if Case does not seem as if he is in disagreement with his established place. He is a hustler for a gang community working the drug trade and in his position, he acts and reacts in a common way that does not go against his micro-society, the criminal organization that he interacts and works for. In one segment we learn that he once defied his micro-society when “He’d made the classic mistake… he stole from his employers” ( page 7). Even though he went against his criminal organization, however, he crippled himself in the process which affirmed that his society could defend itself from an intruder on their order. Even when he transitions to the next criminal organization that requires his expertise he doesn't go against the organization, and does what he is told, because again he is forced to due to the fear that there is "mytoxin sacs"  that will disperse in his bloodstream if her does not suceed in the group, which forces him to not defy the standards that are presed upon him.

However, due to his position, Case was also going against the grand scheme of his society the entire time, conflicting with Marcuse’s idea that all characters in a novel created in a technologically developed area always have to affirm societal standards. Even as Case changes positions from a hustler in a criminal organization to a “cowboy” in a seemingly smaller criminal organization, and in both cases he is doing illegal things that can get him arrested if he is caught. Even though this criminal type seems to be more prevalent, the reader only sees one part of the society through all of the characters, the part that lies, murders, steals, and does advanced computer hacking. He has even gone against his own morals by,"he'd killed two men and a woman over sum that seem a year before would have seemed ludicrous" (page 8). Even in his criminal associative life, Case was forced to go against his ideals by murdering for small sums of money. This makes Case a 'disruptive' character by Marcuse's standard because he is not affirming societal standards, he is becoming the desitute character that Marcue only believes is in classical literature.


However, when trying to position Case into oe of Marcuse's job titles, it becomes apparent that the two sections converge upon each other to neutralize the argument. In Marcuse’s character selection, Marcuse places, “the criminal… the gangster” into two separate categories in his discussion, the criminal is the former category with the disruption of the societal order and the gangster is in the latter category with the normalacy of the society. In Neuromancer, these two jobs for Case seem to intermingle until they are essentially the same position, in which he affirms and detaches from his society. He is for the most part a gangster, having a drug addiction for many years and hustling other people for cash, and he is a criminal when he transfers over to the other smaller crime ring, which I do not consider a gang due to the fact that they act as a small group, but there is no overarching society that is noticeable and there is not a single reference to a gang. It is more like they are a small band of thieves.


In my honest opinion, this section of Marcuse’s argument in the third chapter is not valid for me. There are many other novels that go against the common themes of society, for instance, Jamie and Ceseri Lannaster in a Song of Ice and Fire series with their incestuous relationship, and two of their children so far have been crowned. However, there are also novels that affirm one’s place in society, which are often seen in cheesy romance novels. These defiance’s of society show the breakaway and issues with society, which are still popular topics in literature, and will most likely never go away.


Jackson Crowder said...

I'm not sure how against the grain Case really is. All throughout the book his central goal is to become able to resume his occupation and, perfectly in line with Hacker culture, sees the matrix as a higher plane of existence than the real world. In a grander scheme though, he does participate in the idea of the grand refusal as he rejects contemporary society and all of its trappings for something else. I really like how you point out the duality of his nature. This observation becomes increasingly important as the book progresses and we are introduced to Wintermute/Neuromancer.

Adam said...

Bad proofreading! You should be able to catch misspellings in the second word of an essay!

First paragraph - "In Neuromancer, we learn of a character named Case, who during the course of the novel, defies this overgeneralization and has a duality of these two natures, which neutralizes Marcuse’s argument." I'm unsure what "these two natures" are - I know you're responding to Marcuse here, but I can't quite follow *how*. You needed another sentence or two to work this through.

Your second paragraph, while general, is a good general analysis of Case's relationship to his society. I liked it.

"This makes Case a 'disruptive' character by Marcuse's standard because he is not affirming societal standards, he is becoming the desitute character that Marcue only believes is in classical literature." Here, your analysis of Marcuse is weak, and needed to include the following paragraph in Marcuse. Marcuse does not believe that criminal characters have disappeared (in the paragraph after the one you quote, he talks about gangsters, after all), but that they are no longer fulfilling their critical function. Another thing I want you to think about here is that case engages in self-analysis about the role of night city criminal culture within Japan as a whole - he believes that this criminal culture is a "deliberately unsupervised playground for technology itself" (11). In other words, Case himself raises the possibility (probability, really) that he performs a function within the larger society - if this is the case, then we're arguably talking about a one-dimensional society which integrates all its aparent contradictions.

My point isn't that you need to agree with my analysis: my point is you're not working very hard to understand Marcuse here.

You get into the gangster/criminal distinction in the next paragraph. Curiously, even though you get the point that Case, as Gangster, *is* integrated into the larger culture, you disagree with Marcuse. I find this confusing, because it *seems* like you ought to agree with him.

Really, as a rough draft this is pretty effective. Your reading of Marcuse is questionable, but still productive - I think that with a little more precision in your interpretation, and a more extended explanation of exactly how/why you disagree with him, this would work fine. My honest suspicion is that you think you disagree with Marcuse, but that actually you at least half agree, but I could be wrong - that would emerge in a revision.

I think Jackson's analysis is really similar to mine - maybe his focus on duality is a helpful starting point for revision?