Monday, November 28, 2011

Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed.)--Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body (1996)

“‘Ugliness is a devil’s grin behind beauty’” (Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs, quoted by Elizabeth Grosz)

This book is an edited collection of essays on the history of the freak—the exceptional, monstrous, deviant body—in America.  Its sections cover the cultural construction of freaks, the practices of enfreakment, exhibiting corporeal freaks, exhibiting cultural freaks, textual uses of freaks, and relocations of the freak show.  Thomson characterizes this history as “a movement from a narrative of this marvelous to a narrative of the deviant” (“Introduction: From Wonder to Error—A Genealogy of Freak Discourse in Modernity” 3).  Further, she notes that the “exceptional body betokens something else, becomes revelatory, sustains narrative, exists socially in a realm of hyper-representation” (“Introduction” 3).  Her description evokes Kristeva’s ideas of the abject, as she observes that “the monstrous emerges from culture-bound expectations even as it violates them” (“Introduction” 3). 
Thomson says that the freak show’s structure “fram[ed] and heighten[ed] their differences from viewers, who were rendered comfortably common and safely standard by the exchange” (“Introduction” 3).  Or, in other words, “Enfreakment emerges from cultural rituals that stylize, silence, differentiate, and distance the persons whose bodies the freak-hunters or showmen colonize and commericialize” (“Introduction” 10).  And in Elizabeth Grosz’s chapter “Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit,” she discusses “the psychical, physical, and conceptual limits of human subjectivity, that is, what the nature and forms of subjectivity consist in and the degree to which social, political, and historical factors shape the forms of subjectivity with which we are familiar; and the degree to which these factors are able to tolerate anomalies, ambiguities, and borderline cases, marking the threshold, not of humanity in itself, but of acceptable, tolerable, knowable humanity” (55).   Here’s another result of intersubjective space—the freak acts as an abject, reinforcing the normal.
Jeffrey A Weinstock differentiates between the freak, who is “one of us,” and the monster, who “exists at more of a remove” (“Freaks in Space: ‘Extraterrestrialism’ and ‘Deep Space Multiculturalism’” 328).  Once again, demarcation and boundary reinforcement are highlighted by the freak and the monstrous.  While most of the collection is more ethnographic and sociological presentations of freak culture and the evolution from the carnival freak show to the television daytime talk show,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Debra Gimlin--Body Work: Beauty and Self Image in American Culture (2002)

In this text, Grimlin looks at the ways in which women participate in shaping their bodies in an attempt to meet cultural norms.  Acknowledging in the introduction that such norms are unachievable for most women, she claims that “Women’s bodies are, therefore, by definition, violations of cultural imperatives” (Location 58).  Focusing on four locations where women take active roles in their physical appearance—a beauty salon, an aerobics class, a plastic surgeon’s office, and a political/social organization for fat women—Grimlin claims that these women, rather than simply being “dupes” of cultural power, as she understands Foucault’s descriptions of power to indicate, are in fact consciously repositioning themselves with respect to (as well as resisting) these hegemonic cultural forces (Location 96).  In Gimlin’s sociological approach, she will focus on the significance of social structures such as “group forces, commercial interests, professional considerations, and the structures of communities” (Location 99) in the “body work” these women engage in and undergo.
Ultimately, Gimlin says that she “learned that arenas of body work provide women with the “socially approved vocabularies” that explain their failure to accomplish ideal beauty and thus serve to neutralize the flawed identity that an imperfect body implies in Western society” (Location 156).  Additionally, in all four locations she researched, she discovered that there was a process of either attachment, reattachment or detachment which took place between selfhood/identity and the body.  At the salon, the gym, and the plastic surgeon’s office, women strive to make their bodies match their identity.  Many of them feel as though their current bodies aren’t in alignment with who they “really” are, and use various strategies to correct what Gimlin identifies as “accidents.”  In this way, they learn to reattach their identities to their new bodies.  At NAAFA, on the other hand, they learn partly to detach their identities from their bodies—though their bodies might read as “lazy” or undisciplined, these women learn to accept who they “really are” apart from their bodies. This is ultimately not completely successful; as Gimlin points out, “Meanings of the stigmatized body are clearly difficult to displace because self and body, at least in mainstream American culture, are too closely linked” (Location 1285).
However, other branches of this group instead works to change the meaning of the “deviant” body; encouraging social events with men are sexually attracted to these women, there’s instead a reclaiming of the “sassy, impertinent, disobedient” female body (Location1291).  According to Gimlin, though, these attempts to defy norms are ultimately unsuccessful, and thus “provides empirical evidence for the limits of women’s capacity to negotiate nondeviant identities in light of deviant bodies” (Location 1370). 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Elizabeth Grosz--Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (1994)

Grosz begins by identifying the mind/body dualism which she sees at the heart of much feminist thought (as it is at the heart of much Western thought in general), and claims that her intention is to “displace the centrality of mind, the psyche, interior, or consciousness…in conceptions of the subject through a reconfiguration of the body” (vii).  By putting the body at the center of her inquiry, she intends to confront a particular set of admittedly disparate male theorists (“Freud, Lacan, Schilder, Goldstein, Luria, Merleau-Ponty, Neitzsche, Foucault, Lingis, and Deleuze and Guattari”) “with the question of sexual difference as it arises in the work of a number of feminist theorists, including Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Mary Douglas, Iris Marion Young, and Judith Butler, who all have in their disparate ways provided accounts of female embodiment which question many presumptions in these male texts” (ix).  She points out that not only has this binary view included the alignment of the mind with maleness and the body with femaleness, but also that since Plato, the “body has been regarded as a source of interference in, and a danger to, the operations of reason” (5).

She delineates four different senses of the term “sexuality”:
(1) “sexuality can be understood as a drive, an impulse or form of propulsion, directing a subject toward an object.  Psychoanalysis is uncontestably the great science of sexuality as a drive”
(2) “sexuality can also be understood in terms of an act, a series of practices and behaviors involving bodies, organs, and pleasures, usually but not always involving orgasm.
(3) “sexuality can also be understood in terms of an identity….now commonly described by the term gender
(4) “sexuality commonly refers to a set of orientations, positions, and desires, which implies that there are particular ways in which the desires, differences, and bodies of subjects can seek their pleasure” (iix)

Quite a bit of the first part of this text finds Grosz starting with Freud’s theories of consciousness and gender understanding, working through his ideas for places which might be reclaimed for feminist purposes.  Here is where its age is apparent.  Though Grosz claims that feminists
agree that his [Freud’s] account of sexual difference, with its references to the phallic mother, the castration complex, and the Oedipus complex, provides an accurate description of the processes which produce masculine and feminine subjects within our Western, patriarchal, capitalist culture.  Their disagreements arise regarding the universality of Freud’s account and its value in the prognosis of future social relations—that is, regarding the necessity of the phallus. (57).
Having just read Judith Butler’s 2004 Undoing Gender, in which she in fact takes issue with the centrality of the Oedipus complex to gender formation, even given the cultural parameters with which Grosz qualifies her statement.  Irigaray in particular disagreed with the centrality of the Oedipus complex; as This Sex Which is Not One was 1985 (and is mentioned just a couple of sentences before this), Grosz and I may have different understandings of Irigaray.  However, her summary that Freud’s analysis can be read as an “analysis and explanation of the social construction of women’s bodies as a lack and the correlative (and dependent) constitution of the male body as phallic” (58) is one with which I agree.
            Importantly, she does seem to agree with Butler when she claims that
the attribution of a phallic or a castrated status to sexually different bodies is an internal condition of the ways those bodies are lived and given meaning right from the start….There is no natural body to return to, no pure sexual difference one could gain access to if only the distortions and deformations of patriarchy could be removed or transformed.  The phallus binarizes the differences between the sexes, dividing up a sexual-corporeal continuum into two mutually exclusive categories which in fact belie the multiplicity of bodies and body types.” (58)
And even more importantly is her fundamental criticism of Freud and Lacan: “while it makes perfect sense for the young boy, before he understands the anatomical differences between the sexes, to see others…on a model derived from his own body morphology, it makes no sense at all to claim, as Freud and Lacan do, that the girl too sees the world on a model derived from the boy’s experience” (58).

            Ultimately, I agree with Grosz’s conclusion, that “What psychoanalytic theory makes clear is that the body is literally written on, inscribed, by desire and signification, at the anatomical, physiological, and neurological levels” (60)—and, more importantly, “the body which is presumes and helps to explain is an open-ended, pliable set of significations, capable of being rewritten, reconstituted, in quite other terms than those which mark it, and consequently capable of reinscribing the forms of sexed identity and psychical subjectivity at work today” (60-1).

            In Chapter 3, Grosz traces the history and evolution of the idea of the body image.  I’m intrigued by the schemata proposed by Paul Schilder, in which “social and interpersonal attachments and investments, as well as libidinal energy, form a major part of one’s self-image and conception of the body.”  What I am interested in here is Grosz’s claim that, “For Schilder, every touch is already oriented in a visual register, for it evokes a mental (that is to say visual) image of the spot touched” (67).  She goes on to explain that in Schilder’s model, the optical and the tactile, which are separated in earlier models, are integrated, reflecting our ability to “see an object with our ability to touch it.  The body image is synesthetic, just as every sensation, visual or tactile, is in fact synesthetically organized and represented” (67).  I’m curious if this is related to intersubjective space, in some respect—is there some sort of feedback loop that occurs, reinforcing (or even reifying?) the judgments made or stories invented to explain the gaps which occur when we encounter the unexpected?  What is the difference between unexpected and unintelligible?

            Such a synesthetic organization leads Grosz to conclude that “The body image [for Shilder]…is formed out of the various modes of contact the subject has with its environment through its actions in the world” (67).  While Grosz’s use of “body image” here is referring to a primarily physical, tactile understanding of the body, I think it’s possible to extend her meaning to the more psychological, emotional sense of the phrase as it is used when discussing things like eating disorders.  Again and again, the idea of the body as a dialectically constructed entity emerges, refuting any sort of essentialism or fixed nature.  Finally, incorporating Grosz’s theorization of the body image with ideas from Lacan, Freud, and Grosz’s own acknowledgement of these theorists’ androcentrism, Grosz defines the body image as “a map or representation of the degree of narcissistic investment of the subject in its own body and body parts.  It is a differentiated, gridded, and ever-changing registration of the degrees of intensity the subject experiences, measuring not only the psychical but also the physiological changes the body undergoes in its day-to-day actions and performances” (83).

            Grosz then discusses the phenomenology of the body.  In her summary of Merleau-Ponty’s work, she says that he begins with the “negative claim that the body is not an object.  It is the condition and context through which I am able to have a relation to objects” (86).  The body shapes experience.  Quoting Merleau-Ponty: “The perceiving mind is an incarnated body” (87).  In this way, Cartesian dualism is avoided.  In this discussion of phenomenology, she discusses the central place that vision has occupied, considered superior to the other senses since the Greeks.  Again relying on Merleau-Ponty, she makes a number of important observations about the role of sight in knowledge, such as that:
“Merleau-Ponty describes vision in terms of an activity undertaken by a subject in relation to a distinct and separate object.  To this bare presumption—shared equally by empiricists and idealists—Merleau-Ponty adds two other factors: the claim that subjects are always and necessarily embodies, incarnate, corporeal beings and the claim that vision is always composed not of a given sense datum but of a set of relations between figure and ground, horizon and object.  In short, vision is always a function of establishing a (visual) field.  The conditions of having a visual field, then, involve the constitution of an horizon and the taking up of a perspective. (96-97)
She also notes that vision “function[s] not only as a model for knowledge, but also as representative of all the other senses,” and that the role of vision “is generally regarded as that of unifying and hierarchically ordering the other senses, taming or honing them” (97).  She then lists the three characteristics of an image:
“it presents a manifold field or set of events in terms of simultaneity (it is the only nontemporal or synchronous sense); it functions at a distance, setting up a space or field between the seer and the seen, the physical and psychical; and it does not imply or presume causality (because the other senses are momentary and occasioned by events, vision is ongoing and need not be focused on or caused by any object).  (97)
All three of these characteristics are aspects I need to keep in mind when theorizing ugliness, but especially the last two.  I’ve noted elsewhere how important I think the concept of “intersubjective space” is going to be to my project, and it seems that the role that vision plays will be key.  And, the idea that vision is not caused by an object—there’s not necessarily a trigger—may also play into my ideas of what happens in this intersubjective space.
Grosz also looks at Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of the double sensation in terms of vision.  Typically, the double sensation is restricted to touch—if one hands is feeling another hand, then the hands are both subject and object.  However, Merleau-Ponty expands this idea to the idea of vision: “the seer’s visibility conditions vision itself, is the ground the seer shares with the visible, the condition of any relation between them” (101).  Or, in Grosz’s words, “To see, then, is also, by implication, to be seen” (101).  This is similar to what Rosemarie Garland-Thompson refers to as the Sartrean double bind, the way in which staring leaves one vulnerable to being caught and being seen—the Medusa threat (see Garland-Thompson 69).  Grosz takes Garland-Thompson’s work a step further, however, in pointing out that “Seeing entails having a body that is itself capable of being seen, that is visible” (101).[1] 
However, Grosz then explains Irigaray’s feminist critique of Merleau-Ponty, specifically his privileging of the visual.  For Irigaray, the primacy of the tactile maternal bond is itself hidden visually; by focusing on the visual, Merleau-Ponty allows the perpetuation of the definition of the feminine and the maternal as one of lack. Further, she questions his understanding of the relationship between the visual and the tactile, positing the tangible as “more primordial than vision” (107).  Also important for my project is her discussion of the role of sexuality in subjecthood:
It is only the sensory, perceiving subject, the corporeal subject, who is capable of initiating (sexual) desire, responding to and proliferating desire.  The libido is not an effect of instincts, biological impulses, or the bodily reaction to external stimuli.  It emanates from the structure of sensibility, a function and effect of intentionality, of the integrated union of affectivity, motility, and perception.  Sexuality is not a reflex arc but an “intentional arc” that moves and is moved by the body as an acting perceiver. (109).
As ugliness has been theorized as a marker of sexuality, I wonder how being distinguished as ugly may be a marker of agency, of disobedience in a system which requires women be passive.
In the next section, Grosz examines the ways in which “the body can be understood as the site of the intermingling of mind and culture…[and] the symptom and mode of expression and communication of a hidden interior or depth” (116).  Unlike her earlier consideration, in this mode, the body is considered two-dimensional.  Rather than having a mind-body, inside-outside potential, here the body is a surface for inscription:
as a social object, as a text to be marked, traced, written upon by various regimes of institutional, (discursive and nondiscursive) power, as a series of linkages (or possibly activities) which form superficial or provisional connections with other objects and processes, and as a receptive surface on which the body’s boundaries and various parts or zones are constituted, always sin conjunction and through linkages with other surfaces and planes. (116)
Importantly, Grosz discusses this surface in terms of its moëbial properties and potentialities: rather than designating a boundaries between inside and outside, this inscriptive surface becomes the inside; there is no difference.  This perspective, unlike the phenomenological one, rejects the concept of a complete subject: “The body is thus not an organic totality which is capable of the wholesale expression of subjectivity, a welling up of the subject’s emotions, attitudes, beliefs, or experiences, but is itself an assemblage of organs, processes, pleasures, passions, activities, behaviors linked by fine lines and unpredictable networks to other elements, segments, and assemblages” (120).
She then looks specifically at the body as an inscriptive surface.  Using the work of Alphonso Lingis, she notes that the kind of permanent tattooing and inscription practiced by those often identified as the “primitive other” is offensive to white, middle class, Western viewers, because “its superficiality offends us; its permanence alarms us” (138).  Her reading of him is intriguing: “Welts, scars, cuts, tattoos, perforations, incisions, inlays, function quite literally to increase the surface space of the body, creating out of what may have been formless flesh a series of zones, locations, ridges, hollows, contours: places of special significance and libidinal intensity” (139).  “Civilized” people are no less inscribed than “primitive,” only our inscriptions are often more subtle, and require more interpretation.  As Grosz points out,
Makeup, stilettos, bras, hair sprays, clothing, underclothing mark women’s bodies, whether black or white, in ways in which hair styles, professional training, personal grooming, gait, posture, body building, and sports may mark men’s.  There is nothing natural or ahistorical about these modes of corporeal inscription.  Through them, bodies are made amenable to the prevailing exigencies of power” (142)
Even more importantly to her discussion of the moëbial body here, she says that “it is crucial to note that these different procedures of corporeal inscription do not simply adorn or add to a body that is basically given through biology; they help constitute the very biological organization of the subject—the subject’s height, weight, coloring, even eye color, are constituted as such by a constitutive interweaving of genetic and environmental factors” (142).  Or, more succinctly, “There is no ‘natural’ norm; there are only cultural forms of body, which do or do not conform to social norms” (143).  I’m curious to compare this to how Judith Butler explains the constructed nature of gender and sexuality—once again, there’s a specific constructed, interactive, and dialectic nature to identities, even in terms of its basic corporeal nature.
Importantly, she disagrees with Sandra Lee Bartky’s contention that women’s use of markers of femininity such as makeup and clothing “signal women’s acceptance of and absorption into prevailing patriarchal paradigms.”  Rather, she points out that “The practices of femininity can readily function in certain contexts that are difficult to ascertain in advance, as modes of guerrilla subversion of patriarchal codes, although the line between compliance and subversion is always a fine one, difficult to draw with any certainty.  All of us, men as much as women, are caught up in modes of self-production and self-observation” (144).  This leads into her discussion of the move from a Nietzschean understanding of the body, which is still an agent, to that of Foucault, for whom “The body is not outside of history, for it is produced through an in history.  Relations of force, of power, produce the body through the use of distinct techniques…and harness the energies and potential for subversion that power itself has constructed” (148).  In her critique of Foucault, she points out that “‘Bodies and pleasures’ are the objects and targets of power; in a sense, Foucault seems to imply that they preexist power, that they are or may be the raw materials on which power works and the sites for possible resistance to the particular forms power takes” (155).  But I don’t read Foucault this way; as she has already noted that sexuality and the body are constructed by power, rather than preexisting, I see them as co-emergent.
Grosz says that she is confused by his distinction that “The rallying point for the counterattack against the deployment of sexuality ought not to be sex-desire, but bodies and pleasure.”  She asks, “is it that bodies and pleasures are somehow outside the deployment of sexuality?” (155).  In my reading, I think that Foucault is saying that we need to get beneath the kinds of narratives and discourses which occur at the level of desire (which to me implies narratives, sentences, judgments, “I want that” sentences with subjects and objects and power implications), but instead at the more sensual, immediate sense perception level of bodies and pleasure.  She then goes on to discuss how other theorists posit a pure body before inscription—but here, she seems to be reinscribing the very dualism she opposes.  Having already made the point that there is no such thing as a “natural body,” she then seems to be claiming that there is, at some point, a tabula rasa body on which inscriptions are made.  It seems to me that even in the context of her argument, she should be arguing that the very understanding of the body itself is an act of inscription.  Because I have trouble following her seeming dualistic split here, I have trouble following her feminist critique of the phallocentrism of these theories.  Although, I agree that Foucault’s inclusion of the female body on in his discussion of hysteria does ignore the potential for strategic deployment of hysteria as a form of resistance (157).
She then turns to the work of Deleuze and Guattari.  While acknowledging that many feminist theorists find their work at odds with much of feminist theory, Grosz wishes to examine the places where their anti-Platonism may “help to clear the ground of metaphysical oppositions and concepts so that women may be able to devise their own knowledges” (164).  She highlights their focus on “multiplicity”: “In conceptualizing a difference in and of itself, a difference which is not subordinated to identity, Deleuze and Guattari invoke notions of becoming and of multiplicity beyond the mere doubling or proliferation of singular, unified subjectivities” (164).  She then describes their own conception of the body: “Their notion of the body as a discontinuous, nontotalizable series of processes, organs, flows, energies, corporeal substances and incorporeal events, speeds and durations, may be of great value to feminists attempting to reconceive bodies outside the binary oppositions imposed on the body by the mind/body, nature/culture, subject/object and interior/exterior oppositions” (164).
The final chapter of the book, on sexual difference, is rather problematic.  Certainly, her discussion of Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva are apt, but her reinforcement of binary, sexual gender norms (even/especially in terms of how she compares and contrasts heterosexual and homosexual men, but reifies a unitary female sexual experience) is quite problematic.  (And her discussion of seminal fluid is just plain wrong.)  However, I am interested in her proposed replacement of woman under psychoanalytic terms as no longer represented as lack, but instead as that which cannot be contained.   

[1] In an endnote, Grosz explains that Merleau-Ponty and Lacan agree somewhat on this idea of the “reversibility of vision,” but notes that Lacan differentiates between “the gaze at work in the picture and the functioning of vision in perception” (221 n. 9).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Judith Butler--Undoing Gender (2004)

This text does live up to its billing as Butler’s most accessible work to date (at least for me!).  Chapter 10 is particularly wonderful in that respect, as Butler gives a succinct explanation of French feminist theory and her own response to it, and then goes on to summarize her own Gender Trouble, sketch out criticisms to it, and how she responds to these criticisms.  Additionally, Undoing Gender makes overt the political ramifications and implications of her work on gender.  Returning to the idea of social norms again and again, she interrogates not only how social norms construct gender, but she also discusses how social norms themselves must be influenced.  Butler takes important, timely political issues—marriage equality, transgender identity, the DSM-IV diagnosis of gender identity disorder—and traces and teases out not only the ways in which these larger political issues emerge from, interact with, and reinforce normative gender constructions, but she also considers the meanings of different political positions within these debates.
Butler starts by asking about the meanings and ramifications of having one’s identity be more or less (or not at all) intelligible by institutional standards and social norms.  Moving from the more pragmatic discussions of marriage equality to more abstract considerations of the contemporary meanings of feminism and even philosophy itself, Butler keeps returning to the very question of institutionalization and power in order to question (and “trouble”) gender from a variety of positions—social norms, post-structuralist discourse, continental feminism.  Far from coming to any conclusions, her primary purpose is to keep these questions open and debatable: “resisting the desire to resolve this dissension into unity is precisely what keeps the movement alive.  Feminist theory is never fully distinct from feminism as a social movement.  Feminist theory would have no content were there no movement” (175). 
Besides the incredible usefulness of chapter ten, her discussion of desire and recognition I think may be most useful for my own work.  Her fundamental question of intelligible identity is one I need to consider in terms of what kind of status “ugliness” confers.  Is ugliness intelligible?  Or is it perhaps a shorthand for unintellibility of some sort?  The ugly body is one which refuses interpellation?  Undoing Gender is not the only place that Butler has discusses the significance of grief lately, in the way that it demonstrates our ultimate human connectedness—the ugly body is certainly rejected (not abject, though related).  Her discussion of intersubjective space is important here, and I’ve requested a book by Jessica Benjamin, whose work on intersubjective space she references.  Particularly in line with Scarry’s ideas of beauty is this idea of intersubjective space—another key term I need to keep in mind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sianne Ngai--Ugly Feelings (2007)

Ngai’s highly theoretical work looks at specifically “ugly feelings” in order to examine the phenomenon of what she characterizes as a “noncathartic aesthetic: art that produces and foregrounds a failure of emotional release (another form of suspended ‘action’) and does so as a kind of politics” (9).  In order to do the kind of in-depth analysis she intends, she uses literature as her focus, as she says that, “literature may in fact be the ideal space to investigate ugly feelings that obviously ramify beyond the domain of the aesthetic proper, since the situation of restricted agency from which all of them ensue is one that describes art’s own position in a highly differentiated and totally commodified society” (2).
The feelings she examines are those she identifies as “Bartlebean” emotions, inspired by the Melville short story.  The feelings are: envy, anxiety, paranoia, irritation, “a racialialized affect I call ‘animatedness,’ and a strange amalgamation of shock and boredom I call ‘stuplimity’” (2)—these feelings “can be thought of as a mediation between the aesthetic and the political in a nontrivial way” (2).  Of these feelings, the only one which is really significant to my own work is her examination of disgust, which Ngai says is
constituted by the vehement rejection or exclusion of its object.  Hence while disgust is always disgust toward, in the same that envy is envy of…its grammar brings it closer to the intransitive feelings in this study than to the other emotions with which it is traditionally associated.  For while envy and disgust are clearly object-directed, their trajectories are directed toward the negation of these objects, either by denying them or by subjecting them to epistemological skepticism. (22)
This schemata of disgust may coordinate with my own interactive ideas of beauty and ugliness, that ugliness requires a more complicated interaction than less striking appearances.  Further, she says that disgust is “the boundary confusions built into the structure of these feelings, whether in the form of inside/outside, self/world, or psyche/body, reappear in the aesthetic forms and genres they determine” (22); in this way, disgust is related to Kristeva’s theories of abjection, in the way that it blurs these boundaries.  I need to figure out the significance of this repeated theme or violated or blurred boundaries which keeps appearing.
Ngai. Claims that Kant’s theory of the sublime is “perhaps the first ‘ugly’ or explicitly nonbeautiful feeling appearing in theories of aesthetic judgment” (4), which is something that I know I’ll eventually have to follow up on.  I’m also interested in her claim that “the feelings I examine here are explicitly amoral and noncathartic, offering no satisfactions of virtue, however oblique, nor any therapeutic or purifying release” (6).  Unlike beauty, which is supposed to inspire virtue, or the grotesque, which has similar abilities to provoke dramatic changes, ugliness may be analogous to these less dramatic emotions.  Her distinctions speak to how I’m trying to distinguish “ugliness” from other more highly theorized kind of negative appearances.  Ugliness is similarly a minor affect, and as they result in less of a shock that causes defensiveness, I think the interaction evoked by ugliness is similarly more likely to produce political and aesthetic ambiguities than passions.