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Essay Notes

Winter English

Table of contents
  1. “From Discipline and Punish” by Michel Foucault
    1. Navigate
    2. The Body of the Condemned
    3. Panopticism
    4. Conclusion
  2. “The Narrative Creation of Self” by Jerome Bruner
    1. Navigate
    2. Introduction
    3. The Publicity of Selfhood
    4. Selfhood as Storymaking
    5. The Incompleteness of Self-telling
    6. The Evolution of Life-writers and Perspectives on Self-Telling
    7. Self-making Narrative as a Balancing Act
    8. The Necessity of Self-Narrative
  3. “Unearthing Herstory” by Annette Kolodny

“From Discipline and Punish” by Michel Foucault

The Body of the Condemned

  • March 2, 1757: Damiens the regicide condemned to be tortured in public.
    • Brutally executed with quartering, dismemberment, etc.
  • Léon Faucher’s rules for the House of young prisoners in Paris:
17Prisoners’ day begins at 5 and ends at 8; they will work 9 hours a day and have 2 hours of instruction.
18At drumroll, prisoners must rise, dress, make their beds, and pray.
19Prisoners will pray and hear a moral or religious reading.
20Prisoners will receive a ration of bread, then go to work.
21Prisoners leave work at 10 and have recreation until 10:40.
22At 10:40, the prisoners proceed into school, which lasts two hours.
23At 12:40, the prisoners leave school for recreation.
24From 1 to 4 the prisoners will work.
25At 4 the prisoners form into divisions for the refectory.
26Supper and recreation follow until 5.
27Work stops at 8 and bread is distributed. Evening prayer follows.
28Prisoners must be back in their cells at night.
  • Although these two do not punish the same crimes, they define a certain penal style; separated by less than a century.
  • The entire economy of punishment was redistributed at this time.
  • Disappearance of torture as a public spectacle.
    • It is often been attributed to “humanization”.
    • Yet, there have been significant changes that occur only in a few decades.
  • End of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century: festival of punishment is dying out.
    • The amende honorable1 was abolished in France in 1791.
    • The pillory2 was abolished in France in 1789, and in England in 1837.
    • The use of prisoners in public works in Austria, Switzerland, and the US were often kept under iron collars and chains; this practice was ended practically everywhere by the end of the 19th century.
    • Public exhibition of prisoners in France was maintained in 1831 and abolished in 1848.
  • Punishment had gradually ceased to be a spectacle.
    • During such a spectacle, the executioner resembled the criminal, to make the tortured criminal an object of pity or admiration.
  • Punishment tends to become the most hidden process of the penal process.
    • Leaves the domain of everyday perception and enters abstract consciousness.
      • Its effectiveness comes not from the intensity but inevitability.
    • Not being punished discourages crime.
    • Justice no longer takes public responsibility for the violence in its practice.
    • There is no glory in punishing; confused horror envelops both the executioner and the condemned in punishment as a spectacle.
  • Justice has set up a double system of protection between itself and the protection it imposes.
    • Roles are distributed such that justice does not carry out the penalty.
    • A theoretical disavowal - judges do not desire to punish but instead to correct and cure.
  • Disappearance of public executions marks decline of spectacle, but also releasing the hold on the body.
    • Punitive practices had become more reticent; one no longer touched the body to reach something other than the body itself.
    • Punishment-body relations (confinement, forced labor, etc.) are not the same as torture or public execution.
      • Physical pain is no longer the constituent element of the penalty; the body is instead caught in a system of constraints and obligations.
    • Because of this new restraint, the death scene is not only occupied by an executioner.
      • Doctors must watch over those condemned to death.
  • Double process: disappearance of spectacle and elimination of pain.
  • This defines a new morality concerning the act of punishing.


  • The following measures were to be taken when the plague appeared in a 17th-century town.
    1. Strict spatial partitioning; prohibition of leaving town.
    2. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic3 that surveils the street.
    3. Everyone is ordered to stay indoors.
    4. The syndic locks the door on the outside of each house.
    5. Each family has its provisions; minimal contact is required.
  • All this is enforced under the penalty of death.
  • Inspection functioned ceaselessly - all disorder, theft was observed.
    • Surveillance system based on a system of permanent registration reports from syndics to magistrates.
    • Anything observed during visits is noted and stored.
  • House purification - inhabitants are made to leave; perfume is poured around the ground and set alight.
  • This constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism.
    • The plague gave rise to disciplinary projects.
    • Called for intensification and ramification of power.
  • Two ways of exercising power over men - controlling their relations and separating their dangerous mixtures.
  • Underlying disciplinary projects are projects of exclusion.
  • There is a power in disciplinary partitioning.
    • Individualize the excluded and use procedures of individualization to mark exclusion.
  • Constant division between the normal and the abnormal: an existence of techniques and institutions for measuring and correcting the abnormal.
  • All mechanisms of power are composed of two forms from which they derive: to brand and alter the abnormal individual.
  • Bentham’s Panopticon - at the center is a tower and in each cell lies a prisoner. One can always observe the tower; each cell is individualized.
  • The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial units that make it possible to see constantly and immediately.
    • Dungeons enclose, deprive of light, and hide; panoptic mechanisms preserve onto enclosing.
    • Visibility is a trap.
  • Each individual is securely confined to a cell from which he is seen by the supervisor, but he cannot see his companions.
    • The crowd is abolished and replaced with separated individualities.
  • Major effect of the Panopticon: induce a state of conscious and permanent visibility.
    • Even if surveillance is not continuous, it gives the impression that it is.
  • Power is visible and unverifiable.
    • Visible: The inmate always has his eyes on the central tower.
    • Unverifiable: The inmate never knows whether he is being looked at, but he might as well always be so.
  • In the surrounding ring of cells, one is seen without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.
  • The Panopticon produces homogenous effects of power.
  • It is not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behavior.
    • Panoptic institutions can be light - no bars, no chains, no heavy locks - only a well-arranged spatial relationship between buildings.
    • He who is subjected to a field of visibility shows the constraints of his power.
  • The Panopticon is a laboratory as well - a machine to alter behavior.
    • Try out different punishments and see which are the most effective.
    • Try out pedagogical experiments.
  • The Panopticon also supervises itself.
    • The director can spy on all his employees.
    • The inspector can monitor the director.
    • The incompetent employee will the first victim of revolt.
  • Its mechanisms of observation allow it to gain efficiency and the ability to penetrate behavior, knowledge, and power.
  • Transformation in the disciplinary program.
    • The Panopticon is a generalizable model of functioning, defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men.
    • It is the mechanism power reduced to its ideal form, abstracted from resistance.
  • The exercise of power can be confined with the Panopticon.
    • Can reduce the number of those who exercise while increasing the number of those on whom power is exercised.
  • The Panoptic machine cannot degenerate into tyranny, since it is democratically controlled and constantly accessible to the world.
    • Anyone can observe the observers.
  • How is the power to facilitate progress?
    • The productive increase of power can be assured only if it is exercise continuously.
    • The domain of panopticism is the opposite of the body of the king; it is in the bodies individualized by relations.
    • A network of mechanisms would be everywhere and always alert without interruption.


  • The point of application for penal justice is no longer the body of the guilty man, but the disciplinary individual.
  • Penalty today: indefinite discipline.
  • Placing individuals under observation is a natural extension of a justice imbued with disciplinary methods and examination procedures.
  • Is it surprising that the cellular prison should have become the modern instrument of penalty?

Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?

“The Narrative Creation of Self” by Jerome Bruner


  • “Self” is a strange idea - obvious to commonsense but vague to the philosopher.
  • Is there some essential self inside us we need to put into words?
    • Do we need to tell ourselves about ourselves? What function does self-telling serve?
  • 20th-century answer: much of ourselves is unconsciously defended from conscious probings by concealments and distortions.
    • We need to find ways around these defenses - a psychoanalyst to help overcome our resistance to discover ourselves.
  • There is still unfinished business - why do we need to tell stories to elucidate what it means by “self”?
  • There is no such thing as an intuitively obvious and essential self to know - one that sits to be portrayed by words.
    • We constantly construct and reconstruct a self to meet the needs of situations we encounter.
  • We do not need to make up stories from scratch every time; our self-making stories accumulate over time.
    • Our memories become victims of self-making stories.
    • Self-making is a narrative art - uneasily constrained.
  • Self-making is from both the inside and the outside.
    • Inside - memory, feelings, ideas, beliefs, subjectivity.
    • Outside - apparent esteem of others, expectations, culture.
  • Narrative acts of self-making are guided by implicit cultural models of selfhood.
    • We are not necessarily slaves of culture; there are too many ambiguous models of selfhood that even simpler cultures can offer.
    • All cultures provide presuppositions and perspectives about selfhood.
  • These cultural models still leave room for maneuver; self-making is our principal means for establishing our uniqueness.
    • We compare our accounts to the accounts of others.
    • We are always mindful of the differences between what we tell ourselves about ourselves and what we reveal to others.
  • Telling others about oneself is no simple matter.
    • Depends on what we think they think we ought to be like.
    • Our self-making narratives reflect others’ expectations.
    • Selfhood becomes res publica (of the state, the common) even when talking about ourselves.
  • Self is also other.
    • Roman art of rhetoric - arguing convincingly to others - is turned eventually to self-telling.
  • Is there a spiraling effect in this? - is self-making a sport of institutions of culture?
    • Do we invent tools to further our cultural bent - then become servants of those tools?
  • Will guardedness obscure the tender side of selfhood? The shape of selfhood is no longer a private issue.

The Publicity of Selfhood

  • Endless books tell us how to improve selfhood - how to keep from becoming divided, narcissistic, isolated.
    • Research psychologists warn us of errors in judging self.
  • Has self not always been a matter of the public, moral concern?
    • Confessions of sins and appropriate penance purged the soul.
  • The good self has been an issue in the cockpit of secular moral debate.
    • Does education make the spirit more generous by broadening the mind?
    • Does selfhood become richer by exposure?
  • Inviolate selfhood is the basis of human freedom - our selves are among the most impressive workers of literary art humans create.
  • Self-making and self-telling are as public as private acts can be.

Selfhood as Storymaking

  • Why do we naturally portray ourselves through story - that selfhood is a product of our story-making?
  • Selfhood of the Self:
    1. It is teleological, replete with desires, intentions, aspirations, endlessly in pursuit of goals.
    2. In consequence, it is sensitive to obstacles: responsive to success or failure, unsteady in handling uncertain outcomes.
    3. It responds to its judged successes and failures by altering its aspirations and ambitions and changing its reference group (Bruner, 1991).
    4. It relies on selective remembering to adjust the past to the demands of the present and the anticipated future.
    5. It is oriented toward “reference groups” and “significant others” who provide the cultural standards by which it judges itself.
    6. It is possessive and extensible, adopting beliefs, values, loyalties, even objects as aspects of its own identity.
    7. Yet, it seems able to shed these values and possessions as required by circumstances without losing its continuity.
    8. It is experientially continuous over time and circumstances, despite striking transformations in its contents and activities.
    9. It is sensitive to where and with whom it finds itself in the world.
    10. It is accountable and sometimes responsible for formulating itself in words, becoming troubled when words cannot be found.
    11. It is moody, affective, labile, and situation sensitive.
    12. It is coherence seeking and coherence guarding, eschewing dissonance and contradiction through highly developed psychic procedures.
  • Translated into elements of a story, it becomes:
    1. A story needs a plot.
    2. Plots need obstacles to the goal.
    3. Obstacles make people reconsider.
    4. Tell only about the story-relevant past.
    5. Give your characters allies and connections.
    6. Let your characters grow.
    7. But keep their identity intact.
    8. And also keep their continuity evident.
    9. Locate your characters in the world of people.
    10. Let your characters explain themselves as needed.
    11. Let your characters suffer moods.
    12. Characters should worry when not making sense.
  • Does selfhood require more than a reasonably well-wrought story?
  • If selfhood the origin of storytelling, or vice-versa?
  • “Thinking is for speaking” - one cannot verbalize experience without taking perspective, and language favors perspectives.
  • Selfhood is a verbalized event - a meta event that provides coherence and continuity in “the scramble of experience”.
  • Not just language but narrative that shapes its use.

The Incompleteness of Self-telling

  • Most people never get around to composing a complete autobiography.
  • Self-telling is provoked by episodes related to a longer-term concern.
  • No autobiography is completed, only ended; what we write is only one version of self-telling.
  • We are forever balancing what was with what might have been.
  • Autobiography teaches us about what we leave implicit and what their notion of self is.

The Evolution of Life-writers and Perspectives on Self-Telling

  • St. Augustine saw autobiography as a search for true life, self, memory, and reality.
    • Life is given God and Providence; true memory mirrors the real world.
    • Narrative realism and the Self that emerges is a gift of Revelation.
  • Giambattista Vico saw life as crafted by the mental acts of those who live by it, not an act of God.
  • Jean-Jacques Rosseau raised new doubts about Augustine’s stable narrative realism.
    • Life stories were social games rather than quests for a higher truth.
  • Samuel Beckett - rejected narrative as reflecting the order of life, or that there is inherent order.
    • Life is problematic, not to be shackled in conventional genres.
    • Let one be not lulled by the illusion of narrative.
  • The issue of selfhood has not diminished over a millennium.
  • Virginia Woolf’s “room of one’s own” - feminist appeal for a change in women’s conceptions of selfhood.
  • No image of selfhood ever gains a monopoly.

Self-making Narrative as a Balancing Act

  • It must create a conviction of autonomy - a will, freedom - but also relate one to a world of others.
    • Implicit commitment to others that limits our autonomy.
  • Characters and events in folk stories serve as functions in narrative plots - they do not exist on their own.
  • Is the topic of balancing natural?
  • Commitment to conditions is a narrative - dominated by obligations in one’s life.
    • One’s self-narrative is lacking in imagined possible worlds.

“The balancing act between commitment and autonomy no longer satisfies as the range of possibilities narrow.”

  • One rarely encounters autobiographies without turning points.
    • Are they integral to growing up?
  • Self-narrating is from the outside in as well as from the inside out.
    • Self-making through self-narrating is endless and restless.

The Necessity of Self-Narrative

  • We are rather like a “cast of characters”; literary exaggeration and inner voices coming to terms with each other.
    • Torn between the familiar and the possible.
  • Why do we need narrative for self-definition?
    • Narrative gift is distinctively human - our natural way of using language.

“Self is a product of our telling and not some essence to be delved for in the recesses of subjectivity.”

  • The construction of selfhood cannot proceed without a capacity to narrate.
  • We can produce selfhood that joins us with others when we narrate.

“Unearthing Herstory” by Annette Kolodny

  • For some time at the end of May 1696, the “Battle for People’s Park” captured the nation’s attention at UC Berkeley.
  • Advocates of People’s Park fantasized a natural maternal realm.
  • Disposition of land through “proper channels” was characterized as “the rape of People’s Park”.
  • People’s Park became a “mirror in whic our society may see itself”.
  • These advocates also re-asserted a old fantasy: land is feminine.
    • Land is not simply a mother but a woman and the female principle of gratification.
  • Archtetypical imagery in the People’s Park Committee to American writing.
  • The earliest explorers and settlers carried a “yearning for paradise”; the Indian woman was seen as an emblem for a land entertaining tthe Europeans.
    • Not until later were Indian women depicted as ugly and immoral.
  • An impulse to experience the New World landscape not merely as an object of domination and exploitation, but a materal “garden”.
    • The process of feminization had begun, as explorer claimed to have “personally” searched and viewed the countries.
    • Eden, Paradise subsumed in the American image of promising material ease without labor or hardship.
  • Move to America: regression from the cares of adult life into the primal warmth of a womb.
  • American pastoral literature hailed the feminity of the terrain in a way European pastoral had never done.
  • Implicit in the call to emigrate is the tantalizing proximity to happiness.
  • The paradox of colonization - the success of settlement depends on the ability to master the land, transforming the virgin territories into something else.
  • Recoil in horror - accuse others of raping and deflowering fertility - or of easeful regression.
  • Despoliation of land appears more inevitably to be a consequence of human habitation.
  • Only in America has this process remained within recent historical memory.
    • Americans - willful exploiters of the very land that had promised an escape from such necessities.
  • American pastoral vocabulary - a yearning to respond the landscape as feminine, the “pastoral impulse”.
  • Gendering the land as feminine is nothing new; however, in America there was a revival of the linguistic habit on the level of personal experience.
  • Experience the land as a nurturing, giving maternal breast because of the potentially emasculating terror of the unknown.
    • Woman would civilize the land a little bit.
  • The new Mother, her adopted children cast off the bonds of Europe.
  • The metaphor and patterns of daily activity refuse to be separated.
  1. Amende honorable was originally a mode of punishment in France which required the offender, barefoot and stripped to his shirt, and led into a church or auditory with a torch in his hand and a rope around his neck held by the public executioner, to beg pardon on his knees of his God, his king, and his country. 

  2. The pillory is a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse. 

  3. A government official in various countries.