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张在新

John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

日志

 
 

Language/Perception, Signifiers/Signifieds in Gulliver's Travels  

2008-11-16 00:14:52|  分类: +十八世纪英国小 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Zhang, John Zaixin. Notes on Gulliver's Travels

Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. Introduction and Notes, Doreen Roberts. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 1992. Introduction and Notes, 2001.

Introduction

VI

“Indeed the idea of the relation (or non-relation) between physical and mental is played with a variety of ways all through the book.”

VIII-IX

“The leading English philosophers of the century and a half before Swift, Bacon, Hobbes and Locke, had embraced the values and methodology of the new science and engaged in applying them to the [IX] more traditional fields of politics, ethics and the study of the mind. They had spoken dismissively of Aristotelian philosophy and Platonic metaphysics, as over-reliant on a priori reasoning, instead of empirical experiment, observation and induction. Similarly for traditional logic: it substituted empty terminological disputes for serious investigation, while classical rhetoric ignored the referential function of language in favour of frivolous adornment, thus preventing the communication of real knowledge about things.”

X

“With the Enlightenment there arrived a new view of history as progressive. Francis Bacon anticipated it with his boast that it was the moderns who were the true authorities: they had inherited all the wisdom of the past, and added vastly to it. Paradoxically, they were the true ancients, since the world was older now. In this matter Swift, as a satirist, does not have to put his cards on the table, but he makes tactical use of the old degeneracy theory. For instance, in Part One, Chapter 6, Gulliver notes that the ancient laws of the Lilliputians seem more enlightened than their current practices. And the Houyhnhnms speculate that modern Yahoos are descended from an ancestral pair possibly less wicked and more rational than the present specimens – a sort of reverse evolutionary myth that fumbles towards the Adam and Eve story.”

XI

“The Fall was viewed as a revolt of the lower nature against reason, which stood at the top of what was traditionally conceived as a hierarchy of separate mental faculties. It was that power that linked the human with the angelic and the divine. By apprehending the good or just, it presented the will with objects for right action. Passion, by contrast, came from the body – a function of animal nature. And sin was the result of the passions’ conquest of reason and diversion of the will towards wrong choices.”

XII-XIII

       “The senses and the passions are traditionally identified with the animal [XIII] nature, yet Swift makes the good society an animal one. He can thus dramatise how modest are the sensory and passional wants of animals, in comparison with humans. Horses do not need money, grand country seats, coffee-mills, silver cutlery, powdered periwigs or titles.”

XIII

       “Both Houyhnhnm rationality and Yahoo depravity arise out of the fact that each follows the dictates of nature – ‘nature’ being one of the crucial slippery terms in Gulliver’s Travels. For the Houynhnhnms [sic], reason is nature, and they see their whole social system not as a product of conventions that might be different, but as a reflection of the inherent order of things. (This, of course, is how we all tend to see our own society: what we do is natural; other people’s customs are unnatural, alien, other.)

       “The Houyhnhnms have a hierarchy, but do not see themselves as operating a class-system.”

XIV

       “Swift lays considerable ironic emphasis on the intellectual innocence of the Houyhnhnms. Their very language does not allow them to associate the idea of evil or deficiency with themselves. The apparently neutrally referential term ‘Houyhnhnm’ translates literally as ‘the perfection of nature’. (We might compare our own term ‘homo sapiens.’) The word ‘Yahoo’, as well as naming a species, functions as a negative prefix something like the English ‘dis’, ‘un’ or ‘mis’ (as in ‘dislike’, ‘ungodly’ or ‘misunderstand’). Anything regarded as nasty or defective is termed Yahoo-something or other. Thus evil is externalised and identified with the non-Houyhnhnm other, and value-judgements are offered as normative linguistic descriptions. And their vocabulary does not allow them to speculate beyond the system within which they live. Nothing outside it is linguistically recognised as an object of perception or conception: it is simply either ‘that which is not’, or an aspect of the Yahoo. In short, Houyhnhnm reality is that which the language has granted terms for.”

[Roberts: Language and perception or conception of reality inseparable in Houyhnhnmland. But we can take one step further: signifieds without signifiers as a shortcoming in the Houyhnhnms vs. signifiers without signifieds as a shortcoming in humans, satire on Locke’s “determinate ideas” – clear, distinct names/signifiers can be divorced from their signifieds in direct experience/true meaning or understanding; conception divorced from Houyhnhnm experience]

XV

 “It is the Lilliputians who offer us a society at the furthest extreme from the Houyhnhnms…. They seem to share the legalistic obsession of Defoe’s protagonists with documents, contracts, written schedules, inventories, formal permissions and articles of agreement.”

XV-XVI

 … the fantasy in Part Three of the Lagado academicians who invent a language that consists of carrying around with one the objects to which reference is to be made. It is not just a [XVI] joke about the needless physical effort involved, but a sophisticated recognition that language is not a mere collection of labels for pre-existing things and that the relation between language and reality is not as simple as the Brobdingnagians, let alone the Houyhnhnms, suppose.”

[A different reading: It ridicules Locke’s “determinate ideas” based on direct experience, as clear and distinct but as ridiculous as presenting objects for names/signifiers with direct reference to the objects signified]

Locke, John. From An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Ed. Lawrence Lipking, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, seventh ed., vol. 1C: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. New York: Norton, 2000. 2146-49.

Editor’s headnote (2145-46):

“When Locke analyzed his ideas, the ways they were acquired and put together, he found they were clear when they were based on direct experience and adequate when they were clear” (2145).

  “The clergy were naturally upset over Locke’s new ‘way of ideas,’ which invited people to discard from their minds any ideas that they could not reduce to clear, distinct—that is, determinate—form… Yes, if one wanted to discourse reasonably and understandably, one really must discard any idea that could not be given a determinate shape and meaning” (2146).

2148 theory of understanding fitted to men of my own size (Locke’s modesty: not a mental giant)

[Swift switches it to physical size and puts Locke’s theory to the test when applied to different species and races of different sizes]

2148-9 distrust of hard words, would vote for simple words for true knowledge

2149 a clear, distinct, determinate or determined idea is one that forms a view of the object in the mind and has a name or articulate sound as a sign of the object in the mind (name and idea inseparable, but a possibility of clear, distinct, and determinate ideas) - signifier/signified

[Crusoe, problems of simple, direct style in journal writing and relativity of civility/barbarity; Moll, slippery nature of language and clothing (as signifiers); Gulliver, problems of language as naming, of “determinate ideas” - relativity of beauty, relativity of harmony in music, civility/barbarity, signifier/signified - direct with concrete signifieds (perception) lacking in abstract signifieds (conception), problems with naming processes in general]

The two letters (author to publisher, publisher to reader)

1-2 Gulliver’s letter – complaint and a claim of truth; no editing allowed; one addition by publisher, a paragraph about Queen Anne, but not my intention to praise the Queen in front of the Houyhnhnms

2 Sympson (publisher)’s fear of censorship; publication against my own will

3-4 not fiction but truth

4 I’ve overcome my defects of dishonesty, deception, equivocation, etc. in a Yahoo

5 Publisher’s correction of the author’s claim of authenticity – “the only fault” “circumstantial” - “an air of truth” as in travel books – but vouches for the author’s veracity, his impeccable reputation of a truthful man in his neighborhood; has edited the book to cater to the needs of the readers (cut out on the size of descriptions)

12 shipwreck similar to the one in Robinson Crusoe; too weak to observe

15-6 sign language

16 bodily needs – passing water

17 body magnified in Lilliput

19 bodily needs – eating, drinking

21 body issue – hard to keep alive or otherwise get rid of the dead body

23-4 observing same things but with no names or different names (from ours) – language as naming (nomenclature) is arbitrary (arbitrariness in both language and the naming process, language and conception inseparable) – satirizes Locke’s “determinate ideas” – “Friday,” “Master” seem to have intrinsic value, but no natural correspondence between signifiers and signified, except that which empowered by and empowering social status – playing a guessing game with reader

24 can’t name the watch – concept of time, but no idea of the watch – no name for a piece that tells time – power aligned with one who has the technological power that keeps track of time - one word (“watch”) saves the trouble of putting together a whole bunch of “determinate ideas”- which version is clearer, theirs or ours? – “watch”, an arbitrary signifier for all these detailed ideas about the “engine” – mocking Lock’s theory: one culture’s “determinate ideas” obscure in another culture.

25 astonished by gunshot (similar in RC) – acute sense of sight (Lilliputians) can’t make up for their deficient powers of observation on “exotic” things like a watch in front of them, can’t name them

26, 27 physical strength – promotions of officials - body in place of mind

34 breaking eggs at the larger/smaller end

37 becomes a Nardac, highest title of honor among them – physical strength rewarded

41 writing slants from one corner of the paper to the other

43 Lilliputians – marriage based on sexual desire – family members too (love and Freudianism)

43-4 public education – hierarchy - youth in women valued for marriage

44-5 education for girls, no difference (Defoe’s 1697 proposal for an academy for women, suitable and serviceable companions)

50 making use of bodily strength with no eyes (brains) – ambivalence toward mind/body

51 sufficient for you to see by the eyes of the ministers, since the greatest princes do no more – limited eye-power of emperors (shut himself in/shut himself out, gates of inner court block access both ways, gaze returned) – admiration for physical strength (a statue of body with flesh stripped off with no representation of human spirit) the mere size of the body (skeleton) creates awe in spectators for generations to come

63 not sermonizing on his own folly to be a footloose traveler (unlike Crusoe)

64 will go down in history books of Lilliput but with no substantial evidence (skeleton), posterity shall hardly believe it (history/time needs body/space to validate) – greater size, more savage – just like a Lilliputian among us (with me among the giants), we must seem barbaric to Lilliputians – no intrinsic value of civility/barbarity, notion similar to Crusoe’s (Coetzee’s Foe?) – compares himself to a little animal (foreshadowing Yahoo) – praying to the sun (pagan god)

66 body to be diminished in Brobdingnag (in sharp contrast to his physical strength in Lilliput)

67-8 disgusted at nurse’s breast

68 relativity of beauty – everything he sees reflects back to him in the eyes of Lilliputians (self-loathing as degenerated Yahoo) – misogyny

69 heroic fighting with two rats; discharges the necessities of nature

70 truth claim about the narrative

80 both self and other (barbaric) in looking glass – marrow-bone, male image

81 sees lice crawling on their clothes

87-8 stripped naked in their bosom, ladies’ offensive smell - misogyny to be reflected on self-loathing later (at the expense of women) on p. 111 (despicable conceit of himself).

88 disgusted at naked bodies, astride on one of the nipples, not graphic about other details (narrative space left open for later writers)

92 leaps right in the middle of a cow-dung (pathetic little human being)

93 music simply noise – intrinsic beauty of harmony?

99 political narrative, partiality of a historian – ironic about Europe being except from “narrowness of thinking” – questioning Eurocentric discourses masked behind a critique of the Brobdingnag king’s prejudices about other nations

100 the king was shocked at the inhuman idea of using a canon in battle

101 pragmatic politics (Deng’s theory of white/black cats), no art of government, plain and simply law, no more than one interpretation

102 largest library no more than a thousand volumes – direct, simple style – satire on plain style – degeneracy of man (from a golden age, authentic origin) – one book in that country: larger size in the beginning (physical strength)

108 sense of sight can play tricks on us – Europeans as pygmies – eyes accustomed so long to “the monstrous objects I had left”

109 truth and rational minds

111 could never endure to look in a glass (diminutive in size by comparison, similar to lack) -  

“so despicable a conceit of myself.”

122 people in Balnibarbi (metropolis, Lagado; monarch on Laputa) express their ideas in lines and figures or in musical terms – satirizes Locke’s notion of “determinate ideas” – different ways of conceiving ideas in different cultures, a clear and distinct way in one culture may be deemed obscure in another

129 ideology at work

130 adamant, combination of both a diamond and a loadstone (note 194); the iron mineral in the four towers of the town below is the same material of the lower part of the flying island – the island is both destructive and self-destructive (a diamond is both impenetratable and penetratable by itself) – the power structure generates its own resistance from within (not from without, like fire and water) – queen as a reproductive organ

137 omissions – being studious of brevity

138-9 sentence machine at work (books with no meaning – language not random combination of words but arbitrary, a convention)

140 language – names for things – sacks of objects for signification – satirizes Locke’s “determinate ideas” (can’t be clearer and more distinct than presenting the referent in conversation, but as ridiculous) - referent absent in language

143 men think they have wit, valor, politeness, but have no honor, justice, wisdom and learning (signifier/signified)

144 women think they have beauty and skill in dressing, but lack constancy, chastity, good sense and good nature – experiment, observations: satirize Locke and Newton’s new method – examine diet, excrement – satirical tone aside, a prototype of Foucault’s discussion of disciplining the body in the name of medical science

148 calls up the dead to check accuracy of facts (verifiable, objective history?)

149 in the persona of Aristotle, attacks new science (“determined” – clear and distinct ideas in Locke)

150 disgusted at modern history

156 About the Struldbruggs (the immortals): being immortal, enjoy so many living examples of ancient virtue

158 Immortals and I would communicate our memoirs through the course of time – immortality, the ultimate time-buster, going on a time travel back to the ancient times – degeneracy of human nature justly complained of in all ages

159 perpetual life (for the immortals) in old age

161 their language in a flux – the Struldbruggs of one age don’t understand those of another (problems of language in the course of time: objects must remain the same, but with different labels or signifiers to name them) – immortal women in old age, most horrible sight (misogyny and ageism)

173 Yahoo’s space – Yahoo as savage

175 being taught the language (unlike Crusoe); handyman like Crusoe

176 space hierarchy; my master (for so I shall henceforth call him)

177 no writing in Houyhnhnmland; no word to express lying or falsehood (said the thing which was not), different ways to name the same concept – satirizes Locke’s “determinate ideas”; Houyhnhnm – perfection of nature

177-8 “wonderful Yahoo” could speak like a Houyhnhnm; in his words and actions to discover some glimmerings of reason (Houyhnhnm as the norm of rationality) – unlike Crusoe who makes Friday speak English

178-9 hide my nakedness (what nature had given)

179 hates being compared to a Yahoo

181 Gulliver’s classism when talking about horses in Europe

182-3 H’s attention to G’s body parts (human being as the epitome of imperfect body)

184 no terms for “power” “government” “war” “law” “punishment” (but in practice, they have servants, Yahoo tied up, space hierarchy) – no language to shape the thought in their consciousness, although the signified is already in place (conception divorced from experience)

185 writing debased (as if writing is responsible for those terms/concepts)

187 ill-shaped body reflects vices (signifier and signified, working with concrete signifiers – perception)

189 money alone was able to perform all these feats – money is everything

189-90 sympathy for the working class – out of necessity, robbing, stealing (echoes Moll’s stance on the issue)

191 Houyhnhnms’ cure for disease: evacuation, vomit, purge

193 social hierarchy with the Houyhnhnms – monstrous and unnatural for the white, the sorrel, and the iron-gray to mate out of their own race (being servants) – body shape/skin color/talents of mind (concrete signifier and signified - perception)

194 woman’s body as site of disease to corrupt a nobleman – his mind matches body (weak diseased body) – in terms of body (the position a woman usually occupies)

195 our gross defects of reason

196 Yahoos snatching food from each other - government and power exercised on Yahoos to maintain order – animals as body representation

198 body reflects mind

199 both H and G’s misogyny

202 Houyhnhnms - all virtues and no evil – reason

203 population control as social practice for the labor force – social roots of heterosexuality, legitimized as natural, normal – other forms of sexuality as abnormal and even perverse (homosexuality and bisexuality, to legitimize the latter is to legitimize the former) – inequality between masters and servants – H’s critique of our culture of motherhood

203-4 physical strength in H’s youth – during sports meet, division of labor (H, servants, Yahoos)

204 their old debate: whether Yahoos should be exterminated – no concept of evil (epithet of Yahoo, or a phrase characterized by their own doing)?

208 no word for evil but what they borrow from the ill-qualities of the Yahoos – evil a late arrival, not in their language; the epithet of Yahoo – us/them – demonizing the other

209 tranquility of mind, no encouraging vice? Uses the skins of Yahoos for his shoes when the upper leather is worn out

210 antithesis to Narcissus – self-loathing

211 mimicry – keeping me more like a H than a brutal animal, not agreeable to reason or nature – their reason built on inequality and injustice – ironic – concepts of wrong-doing on my part, conception of evil (epithet of Yahoo) – the assembly’s advice (actually a “compelling” command)

212 rhetoric of “compelling” – satirizes H’s reason

218 would suffer the greatest hardship rather than return to live among Yahoos – abhorring to wear the captain’s shirt (anything that has been on the back of a Yahoo) – H’s signifier and signified, absurd (something tangible with direct reference like the sacks of objects in the academy, like a Yahoo or a shirt on a Yahoo, rather than language to signify evil) to satirize Locke’s notion of “determinate ideas”

220 a faithful history of my travels – have not been so studious of ornament as of truth – and this is not an improbable tale?

222 We have names (signifiers) for honor, etc. but no signifieds

224 Houyhnhnms have no name in their language for this vice (pride) - actually they have signifieds (for wrong-doing) but no names (signifiers) – disparity of signifier and signified in reverse

 

 

  

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