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THEORY, “Naming the Elephant” and Voltaire’s Criticism.

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Presentation on theme: "THEORY, “Naming the Elephant” and Voltaire’s Criticism."— Presentation transcript:

1 THEORY, “Naming the Elephant” and Voltaire’s Criticism

2 Recurrent ideas in critical theory  1. most of what we take as “givens” are actually fluid and unstable  Gender identity  Individual selfhood  Notion of literature itself  They are actually “socially constructed”  Dependent on social and political forces and on shifting ways of seeing and thinking  “contingent categories”  Temporary, provisional  No over arching fixed truths can ever be established  Theory attacks “essentialism” and is actually “anti-essential

3  2. all theory and investigation is affected and determined by PRIOR IDEOLOGICAL COMMITMENT  It’s all relative  You have to understand one side in order to refute it

4  3. Language conditions, limits, and predetermines what we see  Reality is constructed through language  Language doesn’t record  It shapes and creates  Writer and reader contribute to meaning

5  4. cannot claim definitive reading  Meanings within a work are never fixed or reliable  They shift, are multi faceted and ambiguous  Language generates webs of meaning—  All texts are then contradictory (DECONSTRUCTION)

6  5. theorists distrust “totalizing” notions  “great” books change and morph based on socio-political situations  Eurocentric  Androcentric  The cannon  Human nature tends to marginalize, and deny-- --can something only be one thing? Can someone only be one thing?

7 “NAMING THE ELEPHANT”  7 Basic questions 1. what is prime reality?-the really real? 2. what is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? 3. what is a human being? 4. What happens to a person at death? 5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? 6. How do we know what is right and wrong? 7. What is the meaning of human history?

8 Voltaire’s Criticism  a short narrative meant to illustrate ideas, to prove a point, to make a case.  its characters are not meant to be like us or indeed like anybody else.  They are one-dimensional, sketchy or flat figures, rather like cartoon characters or people in TV sitcoms, meant to move the story along and to further the author’s purposes.  Candide is not really about the hero’s development or gradual acquisition of wisdom and maturity.  It is more like an extended cruel joke on his straightforward honesty (the older meaning of "candid") and optimism, a series of grimly hilarious sketches in which what matters is not Candide’s inner life but the events in the outside world that he and his friends have to endure.  The characters in Candide are means to a philosophical end: to prove that this is not the best of all possible worlds.

9  Candide doesn’t change; in the face of all his experiences, he continues to believe in Dr. Pangloss’ optimistic theory of the world and to love his Cunegonde.  Candide is naively simple  Pangloss is eternally, foolishly optimistic even in the face of his own horrible disasters and misadventures.  Martin can only be hopeless and cynical, the opposite of Pangloss  Pococurante can only be bored or jaded.  the Bulgar soldiers who kill Cunegonde’s parents and rape her, the minions of the Inquisition, the Jesuits in Paraguay, are even simpler  they serve as faceless extras and agents of human cruelty and folly in the cartoon saga.  In Candide, disasters and calamities are always happening at break neck speed  the story has a jumpy tempo and a multitude of characters and scenes and adventures in Europe and in South America, along with comically incredible coincidences.  The steady and often horrific violence the tale delivers is also something like the mayhem in Tom and Jerry cartoons—funny rather than upsetting, although in Candide the violence has permanent if not fatal consequences for most of those assaulted.

10  Lisbon earthquake of 1755 that killed 40,000 people.  The carnage and brutality of European warfare that Candide, Cunegonde, and the old woman experience was in actuality every bit as horrible  The horrifying effects of slavery in the Americas were exactly as awful as what Candide sees in Dutch Surinam.  The Spanish Inquisition burned thousands of heretics and non-Christians at the stake, and Voltaire’s description of the san-benitos or sackcloth costumes that Pangloss and Candide wear in the auto-da-fe in Lisbon is more or less accurate.  People were indeed raped, mutilated, and murdered by the thousands

11 Events Satirized  7 years war:   Great Britain and Prussia VS Austria, France, Sweden, Russia, Saxony  Voltaire mocks: armies made of kidnapped soldiers, admirals executed for questionable offenses, heinous acts on villages  SPECIFICALLY:  Candide pleads to avoid England after witnessing the execution of an admiral and the crowds satisfied reaction

12 The Hand of An Angry God??  1755-Lisbon (Portugal) All Saints Day November 1  Catholic Church ruled  Radical preaching's  Brutal acts of faith  “auto-da-fe”: if you defied the church you were burned or hanged in an attempt to please God  Dr. Pangloss and Candide see this played out

13  Between 9-10 am an earthquake hit  Several more followed  people died  Fires raged  Lasted 5 days  A Tsunami happened as people fled to the coast to escape the fires (AHHHHHH!!!)  No one cared that the earthquake and tsunami affected Africa—they only cared about the European capital of Lisbon  No One understood what happened: (The science of it)  2 opposing sides:  Marques ( appointed by King Jose 1)  Jesuits  Rousseau defended the idea of optimism “it wasn’t nature that collected homes if the inhabitants had been more equally dispersed and more lightly housed the damage would have been much less”

14 Philosophizing on Philosophy  Greek roots  Phil = love  Sophy=wisdom  Branches:  Metaphysics: what creates nature, reality and being  Epistemology: study, limits and origins of knowledge  Ethics: defines morality, right, wring, justice  Aesthetics: appreciation of beauty  Logic: structure of arguments to determine if information is true or false

15 Pangloss, Leibniz and Philosophy  Pangloss: unwavering optimism (Leibniz Philosophy—the best of all possible worlds)  He will always interpret life’s circumstances for the best  Actions then become predictable  Extreme tolerance and acceptance  Prevents him from resisting  his own hanging

16 Structure of a satire  Allegory: meaning is created through the use of common symbols  Foreshadowing: hints at what is to come  Hyperbole: author uses extreme exaggeration to illustrate a point  Irony: occurs when the perception of what is true differs from the reality of the situation  Oxymoron: joins contradictory words together to create new meaning  Personification: gives non human entities human characteristics  EX: Candide: “Candid”-honest, uncorrupted, pure  Voltaire carries the definition to the extreme

17 Voltaire and the “hero’s journey”  Hero leaves home: forced?  Hero encounters friends or guides (supply counsel and aid)  A series of tasks or challenges occur which develop the hero's skills and strategies  A catastrophic event occurs  Hero hits rock bottom  Hero experiences a transformation  No longer the same person that left home  Regrouping off allies occurs  Everyone is honest with one another  Secrets come to light  Hero returns home


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