Day 5: Prisoner


Dear all, today (and this is only day 5) I am facing my first blogging breakdown. It was my rule to get up in the morning and post something, but my dissertation snuck up on me today and hit me with the deadline-stick from behind. I think Douglas Adams said somewhere: ” I love deadlines. I particularly enjoy the ‘whooshing’ sound they make as they fly by.” I am not sure I can subscribe to that today–too much existential anxiety (“I need to get a job in academia sometime–please, jobmarket, be gentle–it is my first time”). So I have been held prisoner by my dissertation and have been unable to come up with anything worth writing about.

Instead, I put up a picture of one of my favorite people: Ronnie Biggs (in a Prisoner of Rio shirt). There you go. Prisoners. Me. Ronnie. (and probably that woman they force to shoot these fitness infomercials with Chuck Norris [who, I hear, is apparently finally making it legal and will adopt “Fucking” as his middle name–I also hear there is no chin underneath his goatee but another fist!])

I do have one question, though: has anyone been watching the 3rd season of Lost? Have you noted the psychological and philosophical confusion as of late? Very Foucauldian behavior-modification (via panoptically induced paranoia and subjectivity based on pain-avoidance) in combination with classic behavioral science operant conditioning, allusions to the 60s series The Prisoner (has anyone seen that?? I might have to write about that tomorrow), as well as to A Clockwork Orange. Quite contradicting influences there. Any thoughts?



  1. Too bad I’ll miss out on that discussion – have neither watched LOST nor THE PRISONER and thankfully managed to ban CLOCKWRKRG from my memory. Will pack my bags tomorrow to travel to Cologne – Kölle Alaaf!

  2. I am Jack’s inflamed sense of jealousy.

  3. I’ve not seen the Prisoner, but I can tell you that there is a song on Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” album, called, I think, the Prisoner, which begins with an actual quote from the show:

    “What is your number? You are the new number 2”

    “I’m not a number! I’m a free man!”

    “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” Insidious laughter.

    Well worth checking out.

  4. I was toasting a bagel and it just occured to me that in ’83, for the Number of the Beast album, Bruce Dickinson replaced Paul D’ianno as lead singer of Maiden and thus in fact HE (Bruce Dickinson) was the new number 2.


    Given the fact that Steve Harris, (he of the galloping fingers) bass player and band leader, was a notorious task master, it may be that there is an intra-band joke at work here that only now, some 24 years later my sleuthing skills have detected.

    Embarrased, though no longer hungry, I too return to work on the diss.

  5. Yes, Yes! That is precisely the kind of kick-you-in-the-crotch-spit-on-your-neck philosophical/psychoanalytic discussion going on in the prisoner all the time. And everything in the show is so beautifully colorful. We definitely need to sit down and watch some of that stuff when you get back. Deep insights into repression and resistance (at least insights that are really fancy and spectacular in their attempt to appear deep–and a spectacle is after all the most important thing, right?). Quite popular among Foucauldians (not surprisingly–well, the hip-Foucauldians, that is [the ones that exclusively talk about the panopticon]). The whole thing is obviousy ideologically very confused and more a defense of bourgeois ideas of individuality. Even though one could see it as somewhat connected to the form of individualism advocated by Marcuse’s fusion of Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis in the late 50s and 60s. What did you ever think of that solution? I know you read _Eros and Civilization_. Did you also read _One-Dimensional Man_ (that is the more radical argument for a the liberation of the individual)? Might have to post some passages from that tomorrow.
    Oh–I believe there actually might be Prisoner-spoof Simpsons episode. Complete with killer-bubble and creepy Koala bear.

  6. Absolutely, Prisoner party when I come down from the mountain. (I’m actually in a valley–but in the spirit of spectacle…)

    Should be a word for spectacle-insights. InSpects?

    right, more coffee…

    I’ve not yet, though I have it right here (!) read _Eros and Civilization_, though I might this afternoon. Freud is actually becoming kind of important for my dissertation.

    Part of what I need to do is summarize accounts of the animal. Freud of course disscusses in Civilization and its Discontents how man at a certain moment rises from the ground, the muck and matter of his animal existence, and having done so, equates blood, feces, and all the things that used to sexually arouse him by way of their scents, with beasts. This leads eventually to the enlightenment desire to transcend the body–but the key thing is a shift from olfactory senses to an emphasis on the eye and sight.

    What I’m interested in lately is the way that the body becomes das Ding in Kant, Lacan, and Zizek. How is the dialectical split between mind and body (a la Descartes) related to the dialectical split between the Romance and Realism?

    What happens, perhaps is that the body becomes grotesque–with a life of its own, an excrescence and embarrassment–the sort of ham fisted stuff we sometimes get in American Literary Naturalism’s Monsters. So many creepy human Koala bears. McTeague, say.

    So, um, I ordered One-dim man. (Routledge has a new edition!) and will get back to you about Marcuse.

    Being compulsive–I feel the need to also read Reason and Revolution.

    Have you checked it out?

  7. That’s the Hegel one right? I think I read parts of it, but cannot really remember specifics. Doesn’t he therein for the first time engage with what he sees as the conflict between Hegelian rational logic and dialectics on the one hand and advanced industrial capitalism on the other? Should get back to that, since the debate about the value, or crisis of the dialectic still seems to be going on (maybe now more than ever). I think this led Marcuse to his examination of the irrational society and what he called “the concquest of the unhappy consciousness” in _One-Dimensional Man_. These issues are really interesting to me at the moment and I have been wanting to get back to Marcuse for my dissertation for a while now.
    I am not too familiar with the animal thing, but doesn’t Agamben have a book on that? Is it _The Open_? I also think to remember that Dominic LaCapra has recently been very interested in this in relation to intellectual history, as well as Coetzee–I think he actually has some critical writings on this topic. But, again, I am not too familiar with these things.
    I like animals, though. Too bad that “liking” is not a critical attitude.

  8. Agamben does have a short book called the _The Open_ which I hope to get to soon.

    I’m reading Reason and Revolution right now and will chase with Eros and One-dim man.

    I’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Marcuse. Not necessarily relevant to my diss, but maybe.

    Sometimes I don’t care and just want to read something, ya know?

    Let’s have a Marcuse chat sometime soon.

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