Tag Archives: Fabian

Time Loops in ‘Season of Migration to the North’ and ‘Groundhog day’

9 Mar

The classic was on the tele the other day, and I couldn’t help but notice how Phil (Bill Murray’s character) first responds to realizing he’s confined to one time (the course of a single day) by bedding random women. He is successful in doing so because he is able to discover their secret desires and/or personal details, and uses this information to his advantage.

In Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’, Mustafa Sa’eed is also confined to a time, in the way he is interacted with and perceived by the high society set; they see him as the First Civilized Black Sudanese Intellectual in London. According to Fabian, “there is no knowledge of the Other which is not also a temporal, historical, a political act”– this forces the Other to be separated from the West and thus controlled by the latter.

Controlled in this manner, Sa’eed turns to women in much the same way Phil does, except with far more dire intent and consequences. He uses information offered by these women against them, namely their ideas about his exotic identity, as well as their hinted-at attraction towards the periphery that he represents.

It’s interesting how a time loop is used in the ‘Groundhog Day’ story to force an arrogant, selfish, misogynistic character to confront his own failings and will himself into self-improvement– Phil is driven by a death wish very similar to that of Sa’eed’s, and is only able to move beyond his death wish and associated depression once he breaks through his time loop (by turning over a new leaf and winning over Andie MacDowell’s character, Rita).

Telling then, that the author does not allow Sa’eed to break his time loop– Instead, this character is made to suffer, and only achieves some gesture of peace through his mirror image, the narrator, who reveals the weakness and unsustainability of the position Sa’eed both chooses and is reduced to, and buoyed by the strength of this revelation, decides to go neither south nor north, but stay grounded in the people and tasks that matter to him the most– the choice that frees Phil finally, at the end of Groundhog Day.

Advertisements

Controlling the Narrative: the relevance of “answering back” in Wide Sargasso Sea

9 Feb

One of the most interesting points raised by McLeod was the point of it being an error to apply Manichean aesthetics broadly to a reading of either Wide Sargasso Sea or Jane Eyre: he claims this is an error, as it wrongly imposes the concerns of the present upon the literature of the past, which completely undoes the concept of reading a literary work historically (181). McLeod goes on to argue that this kind of labeling fails to allow for the text to “potentially question” colonial views (182). I feel this point is no where more relevant than in discussing the concept of “Creole” as it develops through the text of Wide Sargasso Sea, and what it means to our understanding of Antoinette’s complex character.

According to O. Nigel Bolland in an article published in the Caribbean Quarterly, “… the term ‘Creole,’ referring to people and cultures, means something or somebody derived from the Old World but developed in the New” (1). Bolland goes on to state that “[i]n common Caribbean usage, ‘Creole’ refers to a local product which is the result of a mixture or blending of various ingredients that originated in the Old World.

Bolland suggests that the thesis which states that the “common people” in the Caribbean islands were “active agents in the historical process” expanded the understanding of Caribbean social history and “reconstituted… ways of looking at the dynamics of social and cultural change. Caribbean societies and cultures can no longer be thought of as the result of a one-way process, of the unilateral imposition of European culture upon passive African recipients” (2).

This brought the Fabian article to mind, and the discussion we had about the traveling back into history and time that Marlowe undertakes in ‘Heart of Darkness’– traveling back into primordial time, Marlowe meets Kurtz who has come undone after attempting this “unilateral imposition of European culture” during his ivory quests. In ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, Rochester is undone whenever he attempts to impose his idea of European social hierarchy on his wife and on his surroundings. In addition, he is unable to control or influence any of the servants; even though he exerts power over Amelie via the act of sex, she is able to leave free and easily of her own free will. Rochester is unable to comprehend his wife, and though he attempts to overpower her by Othering her, by the end of the novel it is Antoinette who reigns supreme over Thornfield Manor, invoking a return to her true identity through the metaphor of fire.

According to McLeod, the characters in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ compete for the overall control of narrative by “answering back”– perhaps the very development of the term “Creole” during the course of Rhys’ text is an answering back to Rochester/European culture’s attempt to pin down the Creole identity to one set of stereotypes or concepts. Unlike the barbarians in ‘Heart of Darkness’, Rhys’ Creole characters defy European conventions by talking back regularly, and literally laugh in the face of them quite often, as Helle brought up in class today.

Considering the various approaches to understanding self-hood in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, I feel that McLeod is right in suggesting that Antoinette escapes the parameters of European representation, because the definitions of ideas such as madness, Creole identity, as well as psychological concepts like the death instinct are left open to interpretation, allowing Antoinette to take on far more meaning than what she was allowed as Bertha Mason in ‘Jane Eyre’.

Time and Civilization

1 Feb

Author’s note: I apologize if this sounds like nonsense!

Fabian’s concept of time and Said’s ideas behind imperialism fit together almost seamlessly. Also adding in Conrad’s claim in Heart of Darkness that the idea behind imperialism redeems it, these three men establish a cycle of time and conquest that seems to thrive on a vague perception of superiority. I was really struck by this particular statement in “Culture and Imperialism”: “How we formulate or represent the past shapes our understanding and views of the present.” In this quite simple idea, Said establishes that our own understanding of the past “shapes” our own view of the current time. What I find interesting about this is that all of this is cerebral, rather than physical. Looking at imperialism and colonialism, I immediately think of the physicality of such ideas. But then again, imperialism begins with an idea, so even though it requires the physical exertion of traveling to a place and enforcing new ways of life, it is nonetheless an “idealistic” pursuit.

So if I think about Kurtz in Conrad’s novel, and how his ideas have consumed him to the point that he has become something less than human, I start to wonder how Conrad meant this transformation to be perceived by his readers. Did Kurtz go insane because he got too close to the “native” way of life? Did imperialism itself cause him to lose his mind? Or maybe Fabian’s concept of time has something to do with it. Perhaps Kurtz lost himself in time because without anyone to “wake him up” or give him some sort of reality check, any ideas of civilization went out the window. Maybe time is what holds our “modern” way of life together; maybe without a logical way to count the seconds and minutes and hours, and without a way to label past, present, and future, we would all be floating in some kind of dark abyss.

I am rambling horribly.