Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Battle of Point Pleasant

from Wikipedia
The Battle of Point Pleasant — known as the Battle of Kanawha in some older accounts — was the only major action of Dunmore's War. It was fought on October 10, 1774, primarily between Virginia militia and Indians from the Shawnee and Mingo tribes. Along the Ohio River near modern Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Indians under the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk attacked Virginia militia under Colonel Andrew Lewis, hoping to halt Lewis's advance into the Ohio Valley. After a long and furious battle, Cornstalk retreated. After the battle, the Virginians, along with a second force led by Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, marched into the Ohio Valley and compelled Cornstalk to agree to a treaty, ending the war.

Colonel Andrew Lewis, in command of about 1,000 men, was part of a planned two-pronged Virginian invasion of the Ohio Valley. As Lewis's force made its way down the Kanawha River, guided by pioneering hunter/trapper Matthew Arbuckle, Sr., Lewis anticipated linking up with another force commanded by Lord Dunmore, who was marching west from Fort Pitt, then known as Fort Dunmore. Dunmore's plan was to march into the Ohio Valley and force the Indians to accept Ohio River boundary which had been negotiated with the Iroquois in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.

The Shawnees, however, had not been consulted in the treaty and many were not willing to surrender their lands south of the Ohio River without a fight. Officials of the British Indian Department, led by Sir William Johnson until his death in July 1774, worked to diplomatically isolate the Shawnees from other Indians. As a result, when the war began, the Shawnees had few allies other than some Mingos.

Cornstalk, the Shawnee leader, moved to intercept Lewis's army, hoping to prevent the Virginians from joining forces. Estimates of the size of Cornstalk's force have varied, but scholars now believe Cornstalk was probably outnumbered at least 2 to 1, having between 300 and 500 warriors. Future Shawnee leader Blue Jacket probably took part in this battle.

Blue Jacket

Cornstalk's forces attacked Lewis's camp where the Kanawha River joins the Ohio River, hoping to trap him along a bluff. The battle lasted for hours and the fighting eventually became hand-to-hand. Cornstalk's voice was reportedly heard over the din of the battle, urging his warriors to "be strong." Lewis sent several companies along the Kanawha and up a nearby creek to attack the Indians from the rear, which reduced the intensity of the Shawnee offensive. Captain George Mathews was credited with a flanking maneuver that initiated Cornstalk's retreat.[3] At nightfall, the Shawnees quietly withdrew back across the Ohio. The Virginians had held their ground, and thus are considered to have won.


The Virginians lost about 75 killed and 140 wounded.[4] The Shawnees' losses could not be determined, since they carried away their wounded and threw many of the dead into the river.[5] The next morning, Colonel Christian, who had arrived shortly after the battle, marched his men over the battlefield. They found twenty-one dead braves in the open, and twelve more were discovered hastily covered with brush and old logs. Among those killed was Pucksinwah, the father of Tecumseh.

Besides scalps, the Virginians reportedly captured 40 guns, many tomahawks and some plunder which was later sold at auction for 74£ 4s 6d.[1]

The Battle of Point Pleasant forced Cornstalk to make peace in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, ceding to Virginia the Shawnee claims to all lands south of the Ohio River (today's states of Kentucky and West Virginia). The Shawnee were also obligated in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte to return all white captives and stop attacking barges of immigrants traveling on the Ohio River.[6]

Colonel John Field, an ancestor of United States Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, was killed in the battle.[7]

Legacy and historical controversies

In April 1775, before many of the Virginians had even returned home from Dunmore's War, the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place in Massachusetts. The American Revolution had begun and Lord Dunmore led the British war effort in Virginia. By the end of that year, the same militiamen who had fought at Point Pleasant managed to drive Lord Dunmore and the British troops supporting him out of Virginia.

Before his expulsion, Dunmore had sought to gain the Indians as British allies, the same Indians the militia had defeated at Point Pleasant. Many Virginians suspected he had collaborated with the Shawnees from the beginning. They claimed Dunmore had intentionally isolated the militia under Andrew Lewis, meaning for the Shawnees to destroy them before the Royal Army troops arrived. Dunmore hoped to eliminate the militia in case a rebellion did break out. However, there is no evidence to support this theory and it is generally discounted.

On February 21, 1908, the United States Senate passed Bill Number 160 to erect a monument commemorating the Battle of Point Pleasant. It cites Point Pleasant as a "battle of the Revolution". The bill failed in the House of Representatives.

Nevertheless, the Battle of Point Pleasant is honored as the first engagement of the American Revolution during "Battle Days", an annual festival in modern Point Pleasant, now a city in West Virginia.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On the Lacanian Gaze

-Slavoj Zizek, "Marilyn Monroe & some thoughts on the Lacanian gaze"
Unfortunately, the Laura Mulvey 'male gaze'*1 distortion of the Lacanian/Sartrean gaze is the most well known among laymen. But it fails to capture a fascinating issue in modern psychoanalysis: to what extent have psychoanalysis and folk versions of psychoanalysis changed the libidinal structure of people. Surely, the very way our societies in the popular media discuss the structure of the mind that it is fair to say we now have, through self-conscious reflection, jungian anxieties and kleinian reactions etc. So it would surely be as certain to say feminism will inject its ideas into the romantic flirtation and change it. Let's look at the Lacanian gaze to understand this.

Marilyn Monroe offers up a vignette to help us:
“‘Men do not see me, they just lay their eyes on me’.

That is *2 :
suggestive of Lacan’s distinction between the function of the eye and the gaze—“mustn’t we distinguish between the function of the eye and that of the gaze?”

In contrast, Mulvey's 'male gaze':
'concept is deployed politically to defend at the level of personal affect, where the “male gaze” can come to refer to a fantasy of an all-powerful gaze that punishes and torments: a gaze, I suggest, that metonymically comes to stand in for a ferocious primal father...'
Hence, the tendency to only think of the gaze in terms of Foucaldian power relations (a man's gaze is power over the woman and nothing more).
somewhat tellingly while Mulvey’s essay articulates the structure of an eroticized gaze—a male viewing position structured on a woman as the object of desire—it does little to address the position of the one “caught” in this gaze, or to use psychoanalysis to understand what is at stake when one is the object of a gaze.
So the question that causes feminists to blush, sometimes with anger, sometimes with embarrassment:
to ask the question of one’s desire is, many might argue, precisely what generates feminist inquiry and in this, feminist protest and questioning has been equated with the discourse of the hysteric. Indeed, the fundamental question at the heart of second wave feminism animates the hysteric’s ultimate question:
what is a woman?
The results of a properly feminist questioning would appear, at least in some expressions of post-feminist culture, to have resulted in a world dominated by feminist ideas. At the institutional level feminist knowledge is implicated in a range of social, political, and regulatory structures and processes. Perhaps more obviously, spectacles of female agency and desire are promoted among other imperatives to enjoy in neoliberal cultures of self-promotion. Yet, as many cultural theorists suggest, expressions of post-feminism (depending on how one defines the ‘post’) always operate—somewhat like Monroe—in a double movement between traditional articulations of femininity and feminism. Which is to say, that when one speaks from a feminist position of knowledge, the feminine question is expressed beneath the bar, and as Lacan notes, “as soon as you ask the question ‘What does a woman want?’ you locate the question at the level of desire, and everyone knows that, for woman, to locate the question at the level of desire is to question the hysteric.” That is, where the theory is mobilized in this way that places so much emphasis on the master’s desire (at the expense of a woman’s), it might be said to be an expression of hysterical discourse. I have previously argued that feminist discourses—as a form of hysterical protest—have bypassed the analyst’s discourse and moved into the university discourse where feminist knowledge production is taken as truth; here feminism’s knowledge product can intervene into the subject’s affective reality and provide a (seemingly legitimate) name for affect. But in doing so, I suggest, it Feminism as a signifier—of identity, knowledge, and universal truth— not only intervenes into the subject’s affects but defends against them and obstruct efforts towards (self) analysis.
In Lacan's gaze, we understand that the gaze provokes anxiety in the woman and is heavily involved in her libidinal desires. The movie, Black Swan, in dealing with the elegant art of ballet, and its covering over of the base eroticism of the woman's body with the beautiful aesthetic of dance:
... animates the anxiety triggered by the Real encountered in Lacan’s seminar X, where anxiety is felt in the gaze that signals what has been repressed. Feminist responses to the film’s articulation of this gaze functions to both deflect politically what is felt personally regarding the gaze.
Feminism becomes part of the libidinal structure of women inculcated by feminism:
I suggest, Black Swan metaphorises the problem of the gaze for the feminine subject where there is an excessive (moral) force or defence against it. For a woman, feminism may provide a defence against anxiety invoked in the gaze—whether metaphorically animated in film or popular culture, real experience, or both.
This can be seen with feminist critic responses to the movie:
'feminist critics such as Jacobs reacted at a political (feminist theoretical) level with the personal disgust of Nina in the film when confronted with the eroticism signaled in the gaze of the Other. This particular deployment works, I suggest, to defend against the problem of the Other’s gaze: specifically, the anxiety induced when caught in the gaze of the Other that is a reminder of the (Real) sexual realm so keenly reduced to social convention within feminist discourse and just as adamantly repressed...'
This strange tension between the acceptable (Lacanian university) discourse on women's desires and the hidden desires is plain to see in all the constant antagonisms in the media culture wars.

*1 In the heavily cited and rather unhelpful “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

*2 All quotes from: Alison Horbury, 'What Does Feminism Want?', Continental Thought & Theory, Volume 1, Issue 3
On the Pythonean Gaze

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Antigone, we barely knew ye!

Slavoj Žižek, "Greta Thunberg is not a caricatural woman, her approach is brutal"

What image of femininity is subtly imposed on us in the war against toxic masculinity?

In January, the American Psychological Association released guidelines describing how "traditional masculinity ideology" can hurt boys and men. The guidelines were the first to place toxic masculinity in the medical world, codifying, in some ways, an idea that had existed only in ideology and think pieces.

But set aside whatever you might think about toxic masculinity and its codification by the APA, because there's another question worth examining: What does the culture's understanding of toxic masculinity imply about our current image of femininity?

Slavoj Žižek, the Solvenian philosopher and cultural critic, recently raised this question in an interview with JOE U.K. Žižek said that putting toxic masculinity into a medical category is a "mystification" of what's "obviously a social-ideological category."

"I am all for women's rights, and so on, but look closely at this notion," Žižek said, later providing an example: "If I beat my wife, or women, it's not simply a psychological illness. It can be. But mostly, it's a form of brutal ideology. You know, it's a social-ideological — that's the first mystification."

But it's sometimes necessary to behave in ways that might fall under the category of toxic masculinity, Žižek said.

"The claim is that men, mostly, when they're in a difficult situation, instead of talking with others, friendly, they withdraw into themselves and react, decide to act alone in a radical way, even if it will hurt them," he said. "But sorry, in many situations, you need to act like this. It's called simple courage, my God."

By demonizing a specific part of traditionally masculine behavior, the culture is simultaneously idealizing a specific image of femininity, Žižek argued.

"So, I think that the secret trick of this category of toxic masculinity is to promote a very precise — I'm almost tempted to say — masculine cliché of women: Women like dialogue, they are friendly, non-violent, and so on, and so on," he said. "What is so fashionable today is to construct a certain image of femininity, which is an ideological construct, as you know, more gentle dialogical, interactive — so on, so on — which fits perfectly today's global capitalism."

In signature fashion, Žižek offered a provocative example of (what he said is "almost") toxic masculine behavior being used productively: Greta Thunberg's speech to the United Nations about climate change.

"She's not this caricatural woman," he said. "You know, like, 'Solve, let's have a dialog.' — 'No! Fuck you! What dialogue? Act!' And so on, you know? That's the women I like!"

Žižek said cultural critics shouldn't get caught in the trap of the so-called toxic masculinity war. "Let's analyze it precisely," he said. "What is sold to us as a critique of toxic masculinity? What image of femininity is subtly imposed on us in this way?"