Monday, September 23

Attention critics: Hamilton goes highbrow


Attention critics: Hamilton goes highbrow

Peter Hamilton

Some of my readers are becoming mutinous. They’ve organized and
officially noted their grievances. In short, they have problems
with my columns. In fact, "suck" is the word most commonly
used.

Their demands are simple: they would like the portion of their
reg fees that goes toward the printing of my columns to be refunded
to them at once. (Which, by the way, is nothing, since the Daily
Bruin is an entirely self-supported entity which uses no student
fees. ­Ed.) Their charges: my columns are simply sophomoric.
The pseudo-intellectual humor I generally employ is nothing more
than the hubris synonymous with naïve thinking.

Since I cannot be captain of the Viewpoint section without a
happy crew, I have decided to momentarily disregard my usual rubric
of humor as per their request. I was so concerned with the morale
of my crew that I telephoned one of my critics, some guy named
Steve and patiently listened to his complaints. He begged me to
"stop wasting precious space in The Bruin … being a columnist is
a privilege, not a right … write something of value, not of
vulgarity."

For all you Steves out there who want something more out of my
columns, this one is for you.

The problem with my previous columns is that I thought youthful
insolence appealed to the hearts of my Bruin readership. Since it
has not appealed to everyone, maybe something more cerebral will
suffice. Since I have no opinion of topical issues, I will have to
rely on something more academic.

That is why I have chosen to map out a portion of the
dissertation I wish to propose to the UCLA film department when I
apply to their Ph.D. program in critical studies in the fall after
next (and for those of you who could care less about the ensuing
psycho-babble, this column may read like a bad textbook for awhile,
but it will pick up toward the end).

In my proposed dissertation I wish to demonstrate how Maurice
Merleau-Ponty’s notion of "flesh" can expand the issue of
"otherness" that can be inferred through Edward Said’s book,
"Orientalism." More specifically, I wish to show how this
correlation can be demonstrated through the use of art in film, but
that facet is for a dissertation committee to peruse. For the
purposes of this column, I will simply address the aforementioned
correlation between Ponty’s flesh and the extension of Said’s
"Orientalism" in terms of otherness.

In short, Ponty, a descendent of the phenomenological school of
thought founded by Edmund Husserl, addressed the quality that
allows active intentionality to occur between two bodies as flesh.
To define flesh would be futile. It would be far better to address
it as a notion where a receiving body is looking into a swimming
pool; is it the tile at the bottom that is being seen, the water
itself or the shimmering reflections of the surface? As a receiving
body attempts to perceive the areas that link those optical layers,
aspects of flesh come into being.

Of course, when this information is occurring in a natural
diegetic fashion it is far more appreciable than in this didactic
exegetic approach.

Getting lost? Fear not ­ everything will be crystalline
when I finish.

That definition of Ponty’s flesh only supplies half of the
information needed to understand the basis for my proposed
dissertation. The other half resides in the understanding of
otherness that can be extracted from Edward Said’s notion of
Orientalism. Orientalism is a school of thought that stems from
Marxist ideology, but unlike Marxism, Said’s Orientalism only
addresses exoticism as a factor in oppression, not the monetary
exploitative basis.

In order to convey what is meant by "otherness," it must first
be defined. Of course, to define other by itself would be
one-sided. Issues of other are best described by a guest/host
metaphor, one that not only shows a reciprocal relationship between
the guest and the host where each participant already occupies the
realm of its opposite, but also one that implies an inherent
dislike for their mutually occupied locations.

Only at this juncture, when flesh and other are understood, can
the two theories coalesce in the form of my proposed
dissertation.

Please consider the following metaphor to serve as a jumping-off
point. Two boxers shake hands before a fight. If the handshake is
viewed in terms of Ponty’s flesh, and the boxers’ relationship is
viewed in terms of otherness (an extension of Said’s Orientalism),
then the analogy between the two proves useful.

Notions of other, or the idea that the disgust the host (the
first boxer) has for the guest (the opponent) if he wishes to
engage his opponent physically (in terms of a fight) or financially
(in terms of race exploitation). As long as the boxer has to
interact with his opponent, he denyingly understands that he no
better than his opponent.

That, of course, only disturbs the host even more. The truth of
the matter is that guest and host, boxer and opponent are the same.
And that is the triple truth, Ruth!

There you go, my cerebral crew. I have provided you with an
intelligent column. You have what you wanted. Please do not cut my
funding (As if you could! ­Ed.).

Of course, since I have now appeased my critics, the capricious
rabble who usually enjoy the dross I provide will now be up in
arms, most likely calling for the same sanctions my critics have
demanded. So that all things are equal, and to assure that I will
remain firmly entrenched in my position as a Viewpoint columnist, I
will make sure my next column is as pointless and decadent as
possible.

In fact, I think I’ll head down to Stratton’s Bar and Grill
right now to do some research.

Hamilton, a graduate art student, is currently editing a
collection of his finest columns for your enjoyment. Look for it
soon at a Bookzone near you.

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