New Subjectivism and New Objectivism

Today I was talking to a graduate student in English literature about the generations of criticism. She commented that a while ago New Criticism was established, and then New Historicism, but she did not know what would be next step of literary criticism.

She may not, but I do:

New Subjectivism

While New Criticism looks only at the text, and New Historicism looks only at the text and the history of the period when the text was written, New Subjectivism looks only at the text and the reader. Another way of saying this is that while New Criticism strives to read nothing into a text, and New Historicism tries to read only the history of the period into the text, New Subjectivism reads only the reader into the text.

Derisively called “14-year-old Girl Criticism,” The New Subjectivism is actually a rapturous breakthrough of burning brilliance.

For instance, imagine a tenured, middle aged professor wishes to examine Hamlet. Boring old methods of criticism would look at the words that make up the text, what is not said, history of Elizabethean England, etc. The New Subjectivist professor, however, is wiser. He will elegantly read himself into the text, discovering which correct represents him and proceeding accordingly.

For instance, compare the openings of two theoretical criticisms of Hamlet: one of the atrophied ancien regime which now controls the Literary Academy, the other our imaginary prof’s groundbreaking New Subjectivist interpretation

Old Way:

Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince. It was written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and is infused with the assumptions of that time. For instance, troublesome women were often labeled “melancholic” and we can see in Hamlet that…

The New Subjectivist Way

I am Hamlet. Recently, I took a sabbatical from my crushing, under-appreciated duties at the University to see my parents. God I hate my students, especially the whiny know-it-all grad students. I get so worried about what stunt they will approach next time that I often imagine things. Anyway, as I approached the ol’ homestead…

See the difference? Mathematically, we might say “Old Ways : New Subjectivism :: Poison : Food”

One method of New Subjectivism will be “Forensic New Subjectivism,” also known as “New Objectivism.” FNS/NO will do New Subjectivism backwards, taking a New Subjectivist work and trying to read the reader out of the story. Here is where the delicious fruits of New Subjectivism can be savored like the tasty oranges they are.

Foolish old-style critiques assume that first-person stories such as The Great Gatsby, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and The Rule of Four are texts in themselves. They are not! New Subjectivism teaches us that in every case, all “first person” literature is but a New Subjectivist criticism of a third-person Ur-text. The duty of the Forensic New Subjectivist / New Objectivist will be to derive as much of the tabula primaeval as possible. For instance, taking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby the FNS/NO will be to write The Gatsby Story, for I Am Charlotte Simmons a book entitled She Is Charlotte Simmons, etc.

PS: After writing this I learned that The New Subjectivism already exists in economics and that the term New Objectivism has been seized by the Old Masterists. Bah!

Lyrics for "One Great City!" (I Hate Winnipeg) by The Weakerthans

One Great City!,” by The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site, 26 August 2003, [buy the cd].

Mad props to M for burning this on a mix CD.

Late afternoon, another day is nearly done
A darker grey is breaking through a lighter one
A thousand sharpened elbows in the underground
That hollow hurried sound of feet on polished floor
And in the dollar store, the clerk is closing up
And counting loonies trying not to say

I hate Winnipeg

The driver checks the mirror seven minutes late
The crowded riders’ restlessness enunciates
The Guess Who sucked, the Jets were lousy anyway
The same route everyday
And in the turning lane
Someone’s stalled again
He’s talking to himself
And hears the price of gas repeat his phrase

I hate Winnipeg

And up above us all
Leaning into sky
Our golden business boy
Will watch the North End die
And sing, “I love this town”
Then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim


Update: Because of spam, I have ended trackbacks for this post :-(.

Constructing Maps

The Ground Without Foundation? Terrirtory as a Social Construct,” by Tuomas Forsberg, Geopolitics, Vol 8 No 2 (Summer 2003), pp 7-24,

This article joins the growing series of readings and writings (presumably) leading up to International Law as a Social Cognitive Battlespace. Also fascinating because of the emphasis on Geography, maps, and other fun stuff.

During the past decade, constructivism broadly understood (encompassing postmodernism) entered and gained a lot of ground in virtually all branches of social sciences. Constructivism seemed to radically challenge established views and truths; in the constructivist genre, territory is not what it used to be, namely stable, objective and immune to human thought, since in the view of constructivists, even physical objects such as territory, are (re)created in and through the human discourse. One of the most famous but simultaneously also contested constructivist interpretations was offered by Jean Baudrillard, according to whom maps are more real than territory, as they have replaced the territory they were meant to describe. Others rather emphasised the linguistic elements of social construction: space is narrated and borders are metaphors. As a result, it has become possible to describe national borders as ‘political constructs, imagined projections of territorial power’ that reflect ‘merely the mental images of politicians, lawyers and intellectuals’.

This reconceptualisation of territory along the constructivist lines opened new and refreshing avenues for research and set up the movement of critical geopolitics. Yet, a problem in a lot of constructivist literature is something that Thomas Osborne calls ‘a macho constructionist view’ (’Look here! You thought this or that was natural but it’s not, it’s constructed all along’) of territoriality. Suddenly there was no meaningful distinction between material boundaries and symbolic ones, between real and virtual space, or between territories and flows. Much of the confusion may also have derived from the fact that spatial expressions became fashionable among postmodernists, for example Deleuze and Guattari regarded territorialisation as any institution that restricts the free flow of individual desire.7 It was thus no wonder that Alan Sokal’s famous parody article in Social Text was entitled ‘Transgressing Boundaries’. At the same time, geographers who were analysing postmodernity, such as Edward Soja and David Harvey, were probably more Marxist than postmodern.

A strong constructivist view of territory is partly trivial and partly misleading. It is trivial because objects of the material world cannot be understood without human interpretation. Discussing different ideational constructions of territories and borders, such as mental maps, contractual character of boundaries or the identity value of territories, has been part of political geography and international relations long before recent theoretical innovations. It is misleading because social constructions are always constructions of something; hence they are not entirely arbitrary and people are not able to design the world deliberately according to their wishes. Therefore constructivist insights should not be seen in contradiction with realist ontology. The view that the importance of the material world depends on dynamic normative and epistemic interpretations of that world, does not necessarily deny that there is a reality beyond the discourses. Surely, territorial boundaries are often very concrete manifestations, but we can still be interested in how the normative and symbolic elements shape and often override the direct material effects of geography.

A social constructivist view of territory does not deny the existence and effects of physical borders. Borders that simply separate people because they are obstacles that are difficult to overcome are not yet socially constructed borders. But if we suppose that people recognise that a line of stones also creates rights and obligations, such as that it is forbidden to cross the line, then we can speak of a symbolisation. State borders cannot be understood without those rights and obligations we have connected to them. Social constructions can be more or less ‘rational’; a certain concept of territory or borders is not necessarily more ‘rational’ if it is devoid of symbolic meanings. In Pierre Hassner’s view, for example, territory seen as sacred land, seat of power, and functional space, is a compromise between the mythical aspect and a rational or pragmatic one.

Social constructivists are primarily interested in intersubjectively constructed meanings, not just private perceptions and cognitions. The construction of territory and borders rests on subjective views, but it is not that individuals, be they laymen, policy-makers or scientists, construct the meanings whenever they explain them. Social entities that depend on collective understandings resist individual views of them, because the constructions are real. Hence, any analysis of how a certain group or actor has constructed social reality requires an analysis of how a particular construction became more widely shared than other constructions by the relevant collective. The Westphalian system of states, for example, emerged and developed over time, and its existence has been a fact that individuals could not escape. A number of factors affect how the system is changing, and some of them are surely material, such as the ability of nation-states to acquire and use military power.

Territory is important for ethnic groups for slightly different reasons. Anthony Smith argues that ethnie always possess ties to a particular locus or territory which they call their own. In his view territory is relevant to ethnicity not because it is actually possessed nor even for its ‘objective’ characteristics of climate, terrain and location but because of an alleged and felt symbiosis between a certain piece of earth and ‘its’ community. It is the mythical and poetic character of territory that counts. Many places such as ancient centres, historical battlegrounds, holy places and monuments or areas of natural beauty are central in the national memory and imagination. Although homelands typically entail such ideas of sites of historical memory, even ordinary landscapes can acquire an ethnic significance in the consciousness of modern generations. Yi-Fu Tuan argues that attachment to homeland is a common human emotion and it can grow simply with familiarity and ease without any explicit concept of sacredness. Territory offers a sense of roots and belonging for all individuals. Consequently, the loss of homeland is often a very dramatic experience. Although people may be able cut emotional ties to their homeland, memories of lost territories with familiar and sacred places may last well over generations. Although such processes are partly subconscious, there is a degree of choice to what extent memories are kept alive. States typically normalise territorial gains faster than the losses, but former territories can sometimes be quickly depicted as foreign when the new territorial identity of the state has become rooted in the mindset of the people [shades of BF Skinner — tdaxp].4

Nationalism and statehood are built on many elements, and the link of territory can be weaker or stronger depending on each case. Its strength varies among different cultures and historical periods. Processes of socialisation and normalisation contribute to the understanding of what is elementary for a state and where the borders of the homeland lie. Creating the idea of spatial unity, teaching the boundaries and presenting visual maps with sharp lines and different colours underlines the cartographic background elements of state and national identity. Thus a particular representation of social space is firmly connected to the social order.

Organic conceptualisation of state territory further underlines its value. For example, for Russians the concept of ‘Russian land’ is emotionally loaded. It is more than the place where they live, it is the body upon which they are dependent; it is Mother Russia. Similarly, for many Germans, ‘Heimat is first of all the mother earth that gives birth to our folk and race’. Indeed, whereas power is masculine, space is often feminine. Territorial invasion by the other is penetration that equals rape. If a great power is stripped off its buffer zones, it can find itself ‘naked’ and vulnerable. Anthropomorphic characterisations of territory have been common throughout histories. The upshot of these metaphors is that because land is female it has to be protected and it is the duty of man to die if necessary in fighting for the defence of the land.

Moreover, when a territorial identity of a state takes the form of a (female) body, it is sometimes reflected even by the physical shape of the state. Finland, for example, was often characterised as maiden, having her head and two raised arms in the north. In the Second World War the Maiden of Finland, however, lost the other arm. As a consequence the image is easily created that Finland has been dismembered and is not a whole – argument that is used by some representatives of the pro-Karelian movement. Similarly, when India was partitioned in 1947, in Jawaharlal Nehru’s words, it meant a break up the body of India.48 The physical shape of India, in turn, can be depicted as a heart. In a similar vein, West Bank can be called the beating heart of Israel, which underlines the indispensability of the territory to the country as a whole.49 In the context of Turkey, as well, territory is conceived as a body. Ola Tunander has argued that the recognition of local ethnic rule has been perceived as a territorial retreat. It is seen as a weakening of the state and comparable to the loss of an arm or a leg or as an amputation of part of the body of the nation itself. Because there are several ethnic minorities, the Turks have been worried that the loss of one limb could be followed by a loss of another, ending up with a state body bleeding to death.

In other words, because territory is constitutive of the identity of a state, states value territory beyond its ’rational’ strategic and economic importance. Similarly, nations value territory simply because it is their home, it belongs to them and nobody else. Consequently, nation-states have a double tie to territory that may explain the central place of territorial questions as a source of violent conflict during the past centuries. If territory is conceived as a part of the identity of states and nations, it can very well explain the tendency of territorial disputes to be dangerous. For example Erik Ringmar has argued that states can start wars in order to get recognition for their identity rather than for reasons of national interests based on any pre-existing identity [implies IL can cause wars? — tdaxp]. In his view actions that are undertaken in defence of an identity are of a peculiar kind. They are not rational actions but instead of actions that make rational actions possible. Such action is, in Ringmar’s words, undertaken ‘in self-defence in the most basic sense of the word – in defence of the applicability of our descriptions of ourselves’.

The international regime that emphasises territorial integrity and makes peaceful changes of territory difficult is a double-edged sword, because norms both prevent and launch disputes and violent conflicts [normas as war-creators — tdaxp]. On the one hand, commitments to norms such as territorial integrity have constituted the cornerstone of international law. A tight regime clearly prevents territorial disputes from emerging. On the other hand, once norms have been broken, a strong commitment to uphold these norms may lead to more rigid positions. The difficulty to achieve territorial changes by peaceful means may militarise such disputes. The Balkans may be only one recent example of such processes.

Indeed, territorial claims are often motivated by the sense of injustice. For Welch, territorial issues are among those issues that are most likely to trigger strong feelings of injustice in international affairs. Murphy argues that territorial claims refer almost always to territories that have been wrongfully taken away. In his view, the emergence of historical arguments as the dominant form of conflict justification in the post-Second World War era can be understood only against the backdrop of the development of modern international law and its relationship to national territorial sovereignty. Stephen Kocs, in turn, has come to the conclusion that the legal status of states’ boundaries appears to be a very powerful predictor of interstate war in the contemporary world. When explaining territorial conflict, he argues, we need to take more seriously states’ international legal obligations as explanations.

In the course of this article, I have tried to systemise the constructivist approach and sharpen some constructivist claims regarding territory. In doing so, I have been able to contrast constructivist claims with sociobiological theories of human territoriality or rational choice theories that emphasise the materialist economic and strategic value of territory. Although territorial entities may bear different kinds of symbolic meanings such meanings cannot be confused with social construction of territory. I have argued that two such specific constructions are especially prevalent and may help explain the tendency to defend territory by military means. First, territory is often conceived as a (female) body. Second, it is regarded as private property. Both metaphors are interwoven in normative structures that may explain why people fight over territory although in strategic and economic sense it would not be rational to do so. Although the argument for such a link in any particular context, not to say more generally, needs more empirical substantiation than here, the idea has been to demonstrate how social constructions shape human territoriality. Further research on territorial discursive practices on different geographical scales and historical and social contexts are certainly needed. It would be helpful if this research would focus on demonstrating how the constructions have been established in particular contexts and how they change, and finding out in what way and why the constructions differ from the norm or other similar contexts rather than describe the constructions and assert that they matter.

Recipe for Big Soft German Pretzels

Soft Pretzel Recipe,” compiled by Aileen and Stephen Block, Recipes from a German Grandma, last updated 19 June 2005,

A recipe for German pretzels, which were a hit. Note, remember to grease the pan and the butter. Live and learn, I guess. Or, at any rate, I live. 🙂

It was still a hit… and if it tastes good with an incompetent cook like me, imagine if the chef knows what he’s doing!


(6 large 12 small)
3 ½ C of flour
4 T brown sugar
2 tsp. salt (sea salt preferably)
1 Tblsp yeast, dissolved in the water
1 C water (120°) fairly warm but not hot.

2 t baking soda mixed with 1 Cup hot water (in a small bowl)

1 egg beaten with 1 teasp. water
(in a small bowl)

(plus butter)

Mix water/yeast,brown sugar and salt in a food processor, or a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix until dough is smooth. Add more flour if sticky. (If possible let the dough sit overnight in a bowl or plastic container in the refridgerator.)

Divide the dough into 6 or 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, very thin, a little bigger than a pencil. Shape into an upside down U shape on your table. Bring the ends together and twist them. Flatten the ends and bring to the top of the pretzel and press in the dough to secure making it look like a pretzel. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
Now let the pretzels raise for a 45 minutes or till about double in size. Dip in the water-soda solution. Brush with beaten egg and water solution. Sprinkle with;

Coarse salt,
sesame seeds, and/or parmesan cheese, or
Cinnamon sugar
Bake in hot oven 450 degrees (225 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes or until well browned. Brush with melted butter and eat!

If all goes well, it should look like:

Photo Courtesy IPI Fundraising through Google Images

German Pretzel recipe courtesy of Recipes from a German Grandma, a kitchen project.

Law and War

Sounds very, very interesting

John Jay Douglass, a graduate of UNL and U of Michigan law school, who severed in a number of interesting positions, including the Judge Advocate Generals Corp, Dean of the National College of District Attorneys and law professor at the University of Houston Law School, will be available to talk and answer questions tomorrow, Friday, October 7 from 12 to 1 in Oldfather 538. Those students looking to career in law, especially those who wish to combine a career in law and the military, might find Mr. Douglass interesting. Lunch will be available on a limited basis.

For some background:

John Jay Douglass, originator of the Douglass Scholarship in political science, will be available on Friday, October 7 at 1:30 – 3:00 in Oldfather 538 to meet faculty and students. Mr. Douglass has a quite interesting career and I am sure you will find him interesting. He graduated from UNL in 1943. He worked with faculty members John Senning, John Lancaster, and David Fellman, names I as sure some of you are familiar with. He was active in student council, involved with the founding of the Student Foundation, and was tapped as a member of the Innocents Society at UNL.

Plans to attend law school were interrupted by WW II. Following the war, he sought a commission in the Army and was selected to attend the University of Michigan Law School. After graduation, he served with the Judge Advocate General Corps. In the course of his career, he received a Masters Degree in IR from GW University and a Master of Laws from the U of Virginia. He has had assignments in Korea and Vietnam and in 1970 was appointed Commandant of the Judge Advocate Generals School at the U of Virginia. He served as a consultant on election law and prosecutor functions in Eastern Europe and Russia. He has been active in the American Bar Association, and upon retirement from the Army in 1974, became Dean of the National College of District Attorneys and a tenured member of the U of Houston College of Law.

On Holy War

Religion, Violence, and ‘Holy Wars’,” by Hans Kung, International Review of the Red Cross, 30 June 2005, vol 87, No 858, pg 253- 268,

Background material for future writing on 4GW Tactic, Caiaphas and Diocletion, and Panzer and Soldat.

Let us approach the problem of religion and war with the sober acknowledgement that ever since man came into being, there have been religions, and for as long as man has existed, there has also been violence. In the human world, which has evolved from the animal kingdom, there has never been a paradisiacal society in which violence plays no part. The image of the pure, peace-loving “noble savage” was long ago exposed as a myth created by the optimistic Enlightenment, to which even such a well-known cultural anthropologist as Margaret Mead fell victim when studying the supposedly entirely peaceful inhabitants of Samoa.

Yet wars have existed from time immemorial, above all to acquire the power (mana) and renown they were believed to endow, and to restore the allegedly disturbed divine order of things.

“Holy” wars are understood to be wars of aggression waged with a claimed missionizing purpose at the command of a given divinity

The Hebrew Bible is nevertheless characterized by the conviction that the violence of nature, like that of man, is the mark of earthly reality, and that the power of evil can only ever be temporarily held in check. It therefore gives unvarnished reports of acts of violence, whereas in other ancient cultures — Rene Girard has elaborated on this4 — violence was veiled in silence, referred to only indirectly, glossed over, or glorified in myths and legends.

The extent to which the heroic tales — likewise set down in writing only hundreds of years later — of the legendary prophet Elijah, who as the ruthless champion of the religion of Yahweh is said to have slain all the prophets of Baal and Aschera,11 are historically true can likewise no longer be established.

According to the admonitory story of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, the climax of prehistory is the story of the Flood which, unlike any other account of it in the area around Israel, centres on the problem of violence: humanity [the earth] was “corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” and was therefore doomed to destruction.

There is consequently no need today, in the transition to the post-modern period, for a mythologically garnished return to gods. What is needed, rather than the creation of artificial myths, is a return to the one true God, who, as the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, will not tolerate any false gods beside Him. Therein lies the foundation for tolerance amongst people: because God is the one God for all people, each and every person — even non-Jews, non-Christians and non-Muslims — is created in His image and as such merits respect for his or her dignity.

After Christianity was elevated to a State religion at the time of the old Roman Empire it was an almost inevitable development, both for the Greek area covering the provinces of East Rome and the Byzantine Empire and for the Latin area covering West Rome and the Holy Roman Empire which came into being with Charlemagne, that the State and church should use their respective powers to protect, support and promote each other, despite the rivalry that soon developed between them. As the domains of the sacred and the profane became intermeshed, the secular rulers saw themselves as protectors of the church, and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy legitimized and inspired the secular authorities on many occasions. An expansion of secular domination always led to an expansion of the church, just as missionary work on the part of the church led to an expansion of secular domination. National law and canon law supplemented each other, ecclesiastical standards governed civil life and civil authorities punished violations of the moral and religious precepts. In this way “the secular arm and the spiritual arm” gave mutual assistance to each other.

In the High Middle Ages, one militant church waged “holy war.” Although the Orthodox churches of the East were also involved in the mostly politico-military conflicts of secular power and often conferred theological legitimacy on wars or even inspired them, it was only in the Latin Christianity of the west that the (Augustinian) theory of the legitimate use of force to achieve spiritual ends applied and ultimately also permitted the use of force to spread Christianity.

One thing is clear from the start: the followers of Christ are committed to non-violence in accordance with the teachings, the conduct and the fate of their Messiah, whereas the followers of the Prophet Muhammad are obliged from the outset to engage, if necessary, in militant dispute which does not stop short at violence. War as a political means is accepted, ventured and — in most cases — won. It

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more effective motivation for a war than a struggle/battle (often expressed by the unmistakable term quital = armed “fight”) against the “unbelievers” for the cause of God Himself. A most worthy battle, which is declared to be a duty in the Koran itself. This duty was an incentive mainly for the committed tribal warriors and the leaders fighting with them in and around the Arabian Peninsula in the first wars of expansion,

During the large-scale Islamic conquests, the jihad doctrine almost became a sixth pillar of Islam. Other than in Christianity, it was possible in Islam to become a “witness” (Greek martys) — a concept also found in Arabic with the sense of martyr (sah/d, plural suhadåˆ) — not only passively by suffering for the faith, but also actively by fighting. Any persons who sacrifice their lives in this way go immediately to Paradise: “When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads (…). As for those who are slain in the cause of God, He will not allow their works to perish …. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennoble their state; He will admit them to the Paradise he has made known to them.”

The fact that Wahhabism encourages intolerance and xenophobia, both in Saudi Arabia itself and in the Islamic world as a whole, can no longer be overlooked.

The fact that Wahhabism encourages intolerance and xenophobia, both in Saudi Arabia itself and in the Islamic world as a whole, can no longer be overlooked.

To remedy the internal causes of the Islamic “disease” of fundamentalism, as manifested in particular in Wahhabism, the Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb suggests taking action at three levels: tradition, law and education. First, the numerous controversies and debates in the Islamic tradition should be recalled in order to create, with critical awareness, the freedom of a pluralistic discourse within Islam today. Secondly, when norms appear inhuman, defects should be sought in past tradition (principle of talq/f) in an effort to render the law more humane and adapt it to the present time. Thirdly, anything that is fundamentalist should be purged from school curricula: “Wahhabism, which is diffuse by nature, contaminates consciousness via the teaching in our schools, backed up by television.”

Secondly, the peace-promoting words and deeds in one’s own tradition should, however, be taken seriously as an inspiration for the present era. This should be easiest for the Christians, since they do not trace their origin back to warrior prophets and heroes such as Moses and Elijah or an aggressive king such as David, but to a preacher of non-violence and an early church which, at least initially in the old Roman Empire, expanded not through violence but through a message of justice, love and eternal life. In the beginning Christians were forbidden not only to do military service, but also to work as a butcher [?!? — tdaxp]. A Muslim who advocates violence and war will possibly invoke the Koran and the words and deeds of the Prophet. A Christian who has recourse to violence and wages war cannot cite Christ as his justification [?!? — tdaxp].

The Koran even contains a sort of golden rule: “Requite evil with good, and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.”

For a policy to be successful, it must have a “mode of action.” Ideological military policies without any ethical principles, representing only the economic and political elite’s interest in power and justifying all means for politicalends — including lies, deception, political assassination, war and torture — must be rejected outright, as must ideological peace policies relying solely on the purity of intentions and giving no thought to the balance of power, actual feasibility and possible negative consequences.

The art of formulating a responsible peace policy is shown in its combination of the admittedly inevitable political calculations with ethical judgement.

Homemade Pizza Recipe

A delicious recipe for home-made pizza:

  • Thaw out and let raise a package of frozen bread down (will take a few hours, but can be spead up by putting the bread down in plastic bag and in hot water.)
  • Once raised spread it like a crust on a pan – like a cookie sheet.
  • Let set for 20 or 30 minutes and bake for 10 min at 350.
  • Then put on some pizza (or spaghetti sauce) browned hamberger, mozarella cheese or anything you like.

Kind of like bread sticks with sauce on them.