Ode from Odette

Odette Delacroix is a member of a site called FetLife. There are posts which are exclusive to that site, but you have to be a member to read them. Let me do the honours…

Tuesday, October 11, 2011: What I have noticed is that people think the real me is anything that is in the photos. However, I often do this for pay: I don’t come up with the concepts; it’s like acting. I may or I may not actually be into what I’m shooting, just as an actor may or may not relate to the character he/she has to portray.

Thursday, March 22, 2012: My personal philosophy about literary analysis and one of my many self-advocacy pieces to keep from being hated in class…

I know that my views regarding the why literary analysis is important diverge from the norm established in our classroom. I believe that I initially articulated my personal outlook poorly, and I want to remedy any bad taste that I may have left. In order to feel satisfied with my own literary analyses, I have to explore at least one of two things: how my analytical work can bring insight into contemporary issues, motifs, or zeitgeist-esque aspects of society. Or what my analysis teaches me about myself (namely my own values and how the world around me affects or influences me).

However, on some level, I believe that any sound literary analysis is going to teach the audience about contemporary issues or ideas no matter what. Analysis is inherently introspective and culturally-aware, even if these details are not overtly addressed. Now, the other point I must clarify with all of you is the fact that literary analysis that is fundamentally separate from personal or cultural/societal analysis is not incomplete. Analysis of this kind is not inherently lacking or of a lesser value than the kind of analysis that I strive to do.

If the goal of a scholar is to explore what Chopin may have been expressing in Edna’s final swimming scene — and to explore only this — then that is so sweetly fine with me. I was simply expressing one of the skills that I long to sharpen through acquiring an English literature degree. I believe that scholars are entitled to explore literature in whatever way they seem fit, as long as their inquisitive minds, professors or bosses are being satisfied on some level.

According to Graff, literary theory is “the kind of discourse that is generated when presuppositions that were once tacitly shared about literature, criticism, and culture become open to question” (1963). The debate over what literature is and what the role of literary analysis is displays the relative nature of terms that are seemingly self-evident. The fact that I felt the need to explain my interpretation of analysis also reveals how literary theory is still relevant by virtue of my writing being meta-theoretical. If this is not meta-theoretical enough, I am compelled to analyze why I want to analyze literature with these goals in mind.

Returning back to Graff, I may be part of the greater economic structure of my time, being forced “to think through the problems facing the average literature student more realistically” (Graff 1963). After all, if I get a better understanding of literature, I can get a better understanding of myself and the world around me. If I get a better understanding of the world around me, I can be a smarter consumer as well as see ways to manipulate profits in the free market to my liking. Immanuel Kant means well in his piece What is Enlightenment?

However, he focuses mainly on scholars to uplift the people and show them a path to enlightenment. This essay then supports the issue of the scholarly illusion, that the thoughts of scholars are inherently more worthy than those of non-scholars. Although Kant has a point that scholars are often (even today) a source of non-conformity, education, and free-thinking that can be consumed by the literate world.

I do not believe that scholars are often above the fear that Kant first discusses. All men and women may suffer from immaturity, so may see change as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. In a perfect world, scholars would be above such reservations, yet, scholars must conform in various ways, as well, if they want their work to even reach the “literate world.”

As was discussed in class, even the most revolutionary literary analysis must still conform to the MLA format. This is just the beginning. Certain topics in serious literary and cultural studies are still taboo or suppressed, such as interpretive approaches to pornography, graphic contemporary novels, hit television reality shows, or trending websites. Despite the fact that these elements permeate our society, an online database search for good articles on them results in the sound of crickets, with the occasional dribble of a few.

A scholarly meritocracy can be Kantian “immaturity” all the same. Stemming from these musings, I have decided to write my next essay on a topic that would not typically be considered in polite scholarship. There is a growing website called FetLife, which provides a home to a multitude of people (over one million users according to Wikipedia) who share how they partake in alternative gender and sexual practices as well as orientations. It is not your mother’s networking site (or, given its popularity amongst those over forty years of age, it could be).

FetLife is generally uncensored, and is an open-minded place to share one’s sexual fetishes, fantasies, and possible role in the growing BDSM international community. The site is still “underground” in a sense that nothing on the free site is catalogued by the Google search engine and in the sense that the content on the site is still seen as explicit in America. Yet, the site offers a wealth of information, provided not by any one type of individual, but by anyone who cares to build a free profile and share any facet of their sexuality (no matter how extreme it may be).

Scholars typically will not approach the site, even if just to poke at it with a ten-foot metal pole. I have executed numerous online searches and, despite the potential for analysis, there are not many formal “scholarly” articles out there focusing on FetLife. This is ironic, because there are quite a few scholars that I am aware of (and probably hoards more that I’m unaware of) who use the site regularly. If studying a “kinkster” website is somehow below my fancy-pants degree, maybe I simply am not a “scholar” and maybe this is the true freedom that Kant reminds us all of.

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