Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Last week I was talking about sex. This week I was on about Milton and National Lampoon's Animal House. The two seem to have merged in this discussion. The Red Witch points out the bit where the Angels explain that they have sex too (this is a big theological deal: St. Paul and his grumpy friends see sex as a shameful post-Fall duty), in Book VIII, 617-629. 

It's pretty good for Adam and Eve before the Fall too: Book VIII 510-519 are the Renaissance equivalent of trains going into tunnels, rockets firing and all the other humorous representations we're used to from ironic films - only not ironic, and there's an undertone of fearful wonder as Adam realises that he's weakened by desire. 

To the nuptial bower

I led her blushing like the morn: All Heaven,
And happy constellations, on that hour
Shed their selectest influence; the Earth
Gave sign of gratulation, and each hill;
Joyous the birds; fresh gales and gentle airs 
Whispered it to the woods, and from their wings
Flung rose, flung odours from the spicy shrub,
Disporting, till the amorous bird of night
Sung spousal, and bid haste the evening-star
On his hill top, to light the bridal lamp.
Thus have I told thee all my state, and brought
My story to the sum of earthly bliss,
Which I enjoy; and must confess to find
In all things else delight indeed, but such
As, used or not, works in the mind no change,
Nor vehement desire; these delicacies
I mean of taste, sight, smell, herbs, fruits, and flowers,
Walks, and the melody of birds: but here
Far otherwise, transported I behold,
Transported touch; here passion first I felt,
Commotion strange! in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmoved; here only weak
Against the charm of Beauty's powerful glance.

Conversely, having posted some of those films last week, I should give you a bit of this: Pulp's 'This is Hardcore'. For me, it's their greatest song - a bitter, plangent lament for two things: the end of Britpop's innocence and their role in it, and for the pornification of culture. It's also about artifice in quite a profound way.

It is, in many ways, the post-Fall version. If you've seen children in 'Porn Star' t-shirts, heard tales of the way sexuality has been poisoned by the replacement of joy with mechanics, read of the way people's understanding of relationships have been degraded by the way pornography has reached into every aspect of popular culture, then this is the song for you. 

Baudrillard would understand. He'd say that love and desire have been entirely displaced by the hyperreality of porn. What we do and how we look has replaced the emotional connection, hence the requirement to shave and bejewel, perform certain acts and loudly proclaim them as liberation: these simulate the real thing but simultaneously hollow it out. We might not like it, but for him, there's no going back.
The very definition of the real has become: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction. . . The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced: that is the hyperreal. . . which is entirely in simulation.
This is what he says about universities:
The exchange of signs (of knowledge, of culture) in the university, between "teachers" and "taught" has for some time been nothing but a doubled collusion of bitterness and indifference (the indifference of signs that brings with it the disaffectation of social and human relations), a doubled simulacrum of a psychodrama (that of a demand hot with shame, presence, oedipal exchange, with pedagogical incest that strives to substitute itself for the lost exchange of work and knowledge).  In this sense the university remains the site of a desperate initiation to the empty form of value, and those who have lived there for the past few years are familiar with this strange work, the true desperation of nonwork, of nonknowledge.  Because current generations still dream of reading, of learning, of competing, but their heart isn't in it--as a whole the ascetic cultural mentality has run body and possessions together.

1 comment:

Sarah Williams said...

Excellent song - great film noir video (reminds me of Sunset Boulevard bizarrely!)

The Baudrillard quote is horribly familiar and makes me feel strangely melancholic.