Literature Power And The Subject

1303 words - 5 pages

Power and the Subject

Power is a misnomer. An attempt to adequately define power will ultimately reveal more about the invisible but all too real limits of language. Such a result may seem horrifying, a direct assault on our sense of reason, and, perhaps, it is. Power resists the reasonable request to adhere to the boundaries of its own definition. Power can and upon occasion does exhibit a quality or intensity observed and captured in the written word; yet there is something slippery which allows power to defy a totalizing description. Power is active. Write as we may, power will not be objectified. Any discourse on power thus begins with this disadvantage. There is much to be learned, however, from a study of power, knowledge more valuable than a simplistic definition. By focusing on where power exists and has existed we can also discuss how power relates to or has impact upon knowledge, ethics, and the individual.



                        " 'I mean that in human relations...power is always

                        present...These relations are changeable,

                        reversible, and understandable' " (McCarthy 139).



Like Foucault, my inquiry into power may be founded not in a desire to discover the true nature of power but to gain a new method of approaching and understanding human relations.


A fundamental question that presents itself in the face of power and demands to be reckoned with is the question of the subject. A concept of the individual, whether seen as a historically bound effect of power like Foucault or an autonomous unique creative force like Habermas, seems to underlie and shape any description, definition, or discussion of power. For the moment and for the purposes of my own discussion I will invest a little hope in Modernism and individual core of human subjectivity. At the same time I do not wish to ignore the evidence to he contrary. I simply wish to put both concepts of the subject on equal footing in order to relate power to them both.


            Does power exist in isolation within the subject or is it inherently a social creation? This might be a method of restating the dilemma of the subject and power. Jeffrey Isaac creates the distinction between "power to" and "power over" to describe the difference between domination and subordination (Isaac 47). While I do not find his connections between the concepts and the phrases particularly useful, I would like to borrow his vocabulary.


            Power in isolation expresses capacity, potential, the ability to perform an act. A subject in isolation has the "power to" do certain things, mundane and otherwise. This power seem to reside in the individual independent of the presence of others. Even in isolation, however, power is often limited by one's knowledge, one's savoir (to borrow from Foucault). A question that then arises is can one attain savoir apart from human interaction This...

Find Another Essay On Literature - Power and the Subject

The Terrified Leaders: How Fear Drives Power in Literature

1603 words - 6 pages Manipulation is the basis of power in modern day society. Using fear with in societies, powerful people rise to power. Gaining control and dominance can be done by utilizing the anxiety in the society. Similarly, readers see fear as a driving force for authority in literature. Simangele from “The Test”, Jack from Lord of the Flies, and the government in The Hunger Games all utilize the fear in their societies or groups to rise and dominate in

Subverting Power: The Lesson of Post-Colonial Literature

2931 words - 12 pages Subverting Power: The Lesson of Post-Colonial Literature Your Name School Affiliation Outline A. Introduction Thesis: Adgar and Alizdeh, as representatives of post-colonial literature, provide evidence that otherness, essentialism and orientalism are notions that explain the issues that arise in the contemporary world as a result of imperial tendencies on the part of Western societies, and their writing suggests a peculiar form of

The German State and Literature

2524 words - 10 pages herself, as many criticised her story. Questions raised included why one of the most prominent writers of DDR era was an informant for the Stasi, and why she only decided to admit it publicly following the end of DDR? Soon after, literature produced during the DDR era was declared worthless. Was it simply a means of criticising the system, rather than being an artistic, high quality medium? Lastly, the “Literaturstreit” became a

Compare the treatment of the subject between "Bavarian Gentians" and "Ship of Death".

1521 words - 6 pages same subject, the inspirations for both poems are entirely different. . "Bavarian Gentians" may have been inspired from the vase of showy blue flowers in Lawrence's house as he lay a sick and dying man. Lawrence was a nature poet and his excitement at describing these flowers has been implied. Perhaps the descriptions are only to recapture the kind of emotions the flower evokes in sensitive people. The image and inspiration for "Ship of Death" is

This paper examines the controversial subject of where and when the great Zoroastrian prophet Zarathustra lived.

3856 words - 15 pages , the chief magus and several of his followers left Europos (formerly Raga) and settled in Atropatene under the auspices of Atropates. With their former power and prestige greatly diminished, the magi needed to increase the holiness of their new home, Atropatene, which at the time lacked the religious and intellectual development of Raga. To do so, the magi asserted that Atropatene was in fact Airyana Vaejah, a land that was assumed to lie

The Satiric Subject, its Practices and Purposes in Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron.

1135 words - 5 pages There are three basic genres in literature: drama, fiction, and poetry. All three categories can use comedy. Comedy again can be divided into high and low comedy. High comedy is comedy that is appealing to, and reflecting the life and problems of the upper social classes, characterized by witty and sardonic treatment. Low comedy is comedy that gets its effect mainly from action and situation, as burlesque, farce, slapstick, and horseplay, rather

The Satiric Subject, its Practices and Purposes in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote

1007 words - 4 pages knights as absurdly old-fashioned. On the one-hand Don Quixote accomplished nothing in his adventures, and on the other hand, he accomplished exactly, what the author intended. With the Story of Don Quixote, Cervantes wants to show the foolishness of the chivalric traditions of the middle ages in modern Spain. Sir Walter Raleigh, a professor of English Literature describes Cervantes work as part of the riots in Spain as "...his absolute honest and

Comparing Christina Rosetti's Approach to the Subject of Death in After Death, Remember, Song and Dream

1307 words - 5 pages Comparing Christina Rosetti's Approach to the Subject of Death in After Death, Remember, Song and Dream Death was a favourite theme of the Victorian writers. Before antibiotics and a National Health Service it was common to die early in life from common illnesses such as tuberculosis and during childbirth. 50% of children died before the age of six in Hanworth, the Bronte sisters' village. The Victorians held expensive

Power, Authority and The State

1333 words - 5 pages never give our obedience a second thought. What is authority? According to Max Weber, a German sociologist, authority is the legitimate power which one person or group holds over another and does not involve force or violence (10). Weber goes on to construct his “Tripartite Model of Authority” in which he narrows down the definition of authority into three sub-categories: legal/rational authority, traditional authority, and charismatic authority

Analysis of the power politics of canadian literature. Specifically margaret atwood's surfacing

1547 words - 6 pages femininity and masculinity. An example of such power and destruction emerges through Anna and David's relationship. Through the narrator the reader is given a first hand description of the inequality that co-exists between them. David presents himself as the male dominating figure, where Anna has has become accustomed to control emotions and immune herself from the brutality she endures through David's language.Through David, the hierarchical

The Power of Addiction and the Addiction to Power

1758 words - 7 pages After watching and analyzing Dr. Gabor Maté’s speech about power and addiction, it is extremely evident and clear to see how vague the word “addiction” is and how the global community today has related such a topic to a limited discourse that pertains simply to substance use and abuse. Dr. Maté talks about the various addictions to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and others throughout his video, however where I agree most with

Similar Essays

Notes On The Crucible And Early American History Subject History: Early American With Literature

1574 words - 6 pages the city on the hill but a culture based on power. The carceral system.This system is based on fear, intimidation, threat in order to maintain order.Oligarchy-- groups competing against each other and the wealthy come out on top... the Puritans have come and changed the land into it... turning gold into lead. The American dream into it's opposite, a nightmare, a place of freedom into a prison, and a pulpit (a place in which a spritual leader

On The Subject Of Gay Marriage And Homosexuality A Manifesto

4163 words - 17 pages On the Subject of Gay Marriage and HomosexualityThis Gay marriage issue is a vexing one to be sure. The pro Gay marriage lobby has decided that the reason of the issue is the "Full faith and credit clause" in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. They are claiming that if Massachusetts issues licensees for Gays to marry then all the other states of the union must honor those unions just as they do the traditional marriage between opposite sexes

Power Of Art, Creativity, And Imagination In Children’s Literature

677 words - 3 pages Power of Art, Creativity, and Imagination in Children’s Literature “Imagination is the true magic carpet ride,” as Norman Vincent Peale once said. Indeed this proves to be true in Crockett Johnson’s, Harold and the Purple Crayon, when Harold, a small boy with a large imagination, creates his world using a purple crayon. Also, Leo Lionni uses a mouse named Fredrick to capture “colors” and “sunrays” in his Caldecott winning book Fredrick

Literature And The Workplace Essay

1748 words - 7 pages Literature and the Workplace The relationship between literature and the workplace environment is primarily one of human emotion and interaction. How a person feels about their work, or the issues faced within the workplace are fodder for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry alike. The