Munmun Masud

November 19th, 2010

The Impression of Confinement

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

The mood that best describes Edward Hopper’s famous painting, Nighthawks, is the impression of confinement. The waiter is shut in behind the square counter. The customers are confined within the four edges of the café and café Phillies itself, is confined by four edges of the corners of the street. This painting, which can easily be passed as a photograph captures both light and shadow. This café seems to be the only object that illuminates the environment—light is the only aspect of the painting that is not confined. Light breaks through the transparent café, escaping into the streets.

In this painting, the uniquely defined dwellers of the dark, the “nighthawks,” are of the white race. Therefore, the notion of freedom is completely relevant. Even if these individuals are people with freedom, are they free from the tightly confined corners of the café? Where is the café’s entrance/exit door? From my perspective, the people seem to be trapped, but the “white” light is definitely not, as it escapes the translucent glass walls.

This painting explicitly displays indoor luminosity, but also does not fail to light the outdoors of the street corner. This creates an illusion of daytime for only that specific street corner of which Phillies resides. Phillies is not the only hotspot in this painting, as there is another unknown setting placed directly across. It looks just as clean, furnished, and is also transparent. Because that store is unnamed, it is insignificant—therefore, unlighted.

Even though there are three men in this painting, they fail to overshadow the single woman. The men are dressed in dark or pale colors, and all are wearing a form of head gear. The only revealing parts of their body, other than their hands, are the men’s faces and that too, is shielded from light. These caps limit all types of beam to directly hit their face. The men have figured out a way to confine light in areas where they do not belong. The blackness of the men’s suit does not emit or reflect light, it rather absorbs it. These boring listless colors are outshined by the woman sporting the bright red dress, red hair and red lips. The vibrant red signifies color, and represents the flamboyance of light. Clearly, the woman represents a figure that does not want to settle in the shadow, in contrast to the men.

To express restriction, one can easily do what is captured in this painting. Because there are several people in a confined space, the notion of loneliness is invisible. In other words, along with four people, there exists light and an atmosphere that is uniformly shared. Where exists light, the issue of confinement is still noticeable. The city streets of Manhattan are lighted 24 hours of the day and accessible to people at all hours, much like café Phillies. Therefore, the 24 hour illuminated city streets too, are confined. Beyond the sidewalks are cross roads intended for cars, there are areas that say “no trespassing,” private locations, highways and of course the Hudson River. The above literal experiences contribute to confinement as the places mentioned are not accessible to most—it is all confined, therefore, people will always be limited whether in the dark or the brightest of places.

November 14th, 2010

Technology Obliterates Man

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

A technocritic can focus on many elements that involve technology in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. However, to speak of technology as a whole, one specific element surpasses all else; technology obliterates man and his nature in The Great Gatsby.

First of all, we can view Jay Gatsby, George and Myrtle Wilson as victims of technology. Here, technology ultimately becomes the cause of their deaths as Myrtle is struck by an automobile, and both Gatsby and George are killed by the bullet of a gun. Both machines are perceived to be dangerous forms of technologies. From what I conclude, guns were invented to wound, or kill and cars are just as dangerous when driven recklessly.

Before leaving for the war, Gatsby lies to Daisy about his financial status—he is dishonest because he understands that wealth is a major factor for Daisy and feels pressure to lie during the process of courtship. Here, wealth suggests the ownership of technology. When one is wealthy, he possesses many forms of modern technology only the elite are privileged to have. Gatsby’s act of lying for Daisy to reciprocate his affection sheds light on the destruction of both his and Daisy’s nature. This reveals quite an important aspect; the fact that Gatsby needs to lie about his wealth reveals Daisy’s materialistic and money-oriented nature as well as Gatsby’s weakness. Gatsby is a weak character because he was unable to court Daisy on the basis of truth.

Gatsby reinvents himself. He changes his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby because he was disgusted by his background and poor lifestyle before his journey to become rich—filthy rich. This reinventing of the self displays yet another form of technology that did not improve, but further flawed Gatsby’s nature. He changed his name to appeal to his later status; however it did not fulfill the void. Therefore, Gatsby’s action of self reinvention was a complete failure because he did not achieve his goal, Daisy.

Tom Buchanan states that one of the modes behind Gatsby’s wealth is bootlegging. This “skill” requires technology such as transportation: trains, cars and even ships. This crime that Gatsby gained his abundant wealth from presents another demeaning characteristic in Gatsby’s nature. Perhaps Gatsby selected the easiest and fastest way possible to become rich for Daisy. After all, she was the focal point for his desire to achieve prosperity. In this novel, wealth is the definitive source that is crucially needed, as without this facet, one cannot advance in the technological field, which at the end, ultimately fails. Such technological fields include Gatsby’s mansion, his parties, and his newly reinvented self—all of which have failed to bring him the person he truly longed for, Daisy.

November 6th, 2010

PRESENTATION on 11/01/10: Measuring Technology on the Gender Scale

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

Is technology gendered?

*As late as the Middle Ages, the useful arts were identified as much with women as with men, and women were engaged in almost all aspects of technological practice.

*Women were not only identified as spinners or weavers, but also metalworkers and goldsmiths.



Women steadily lost ground to men for many reasons, several include:

– Politicized guild regulation

– New social legislation

– Extended market

– Increasing separation of public and private spheres

– The diminished importance of household production

– Exclusion of women from educational institutions

– And so much more…

Technology became the modern measure of elite masculine identity

*Technology came into use to describe the realm of the useful arts, reshaped by science, and from the start the idea of technology became the modern measure of elite masculine identity.

*Technological development assumed its modern appearance as a “traditionally masculine” enterprise.

*This enterprise is defined as a mythic male affair against women, who would forever have to struggle to reassert even a semblance of their former role in the useful arts.

*Since technology was defined from the outset as masculine, women were excluded and whatever women did, was not included.

Again, is technology gendered?!

*According to Autumn Stanley, “the stereotypes separating woman and technology,” legitimized the displacement of women and rendered their continuing contributions invisible.

*This left a permanent masculine imprint on trademark technological achievements.

*Ivan Illich (Austrian Philosopher) argued that technological activities as well as specific tools were traditionally divided between gendered domains.

*The male gender dominates technology, and plays the role of “director” by assigning women their technological duties. Basically, men lead and women follow.

*Therefore, yes. Technology is gendered as certain achievements were stamped masculine and, certain achievements were stamped feminine.

*The Distaff was primarily a woman’s tool. It was emblematic not only of women’s work but of the useful arts and productive labor in general.

*The following technologies were traditionally identified with men: Hunting, Warfare, Toolmaking, Metalworking, Ornamental arts associated with religion and state power

Gender and Technology in 2010

*Through the lack of female participation, technology becomes a given male characteristic.

*With women being culturally isolated, technology it self becomes an extension of masculinity within society—this furthers the gap between males and females in technology.

*This extension of male power in the form of technology dictates the direction of technology in the future.

*With males already in the technological field, they create new and improved technology designed from a male perspective.

*This creates a surplus of technologies that suit men and their ideas.

*For example, the video game industry today still caters to a predominately male population. This is because video games have always been associated with males. Men both play and create most of the video games with the industry.

*“Male power over technology is both a prudent of and reinforcement for their power in society. Even at the household level, every time a man repairs the plumbing or a sewing machine while a woman watches, a communication about her helplessness and inferiority is made” (Gill & Grint).

*In this way females are ostracized by technology on two levels.

–First, they are not expected to use technology which leads them to stay away from it.

–Second, by staying away from it they come to a mutual understanding that technology is a male concept.

*In turn they teach this concept to all women generation’s after them who in turn teach it to their children until it becomes a cultural norm with no clear origin.

*The technology of separate work with “women’s work” such as housekeeping, cooking, and caring for children is present even today. The domain of the kitchen is associated with femininity while the grill is a masculine art form of cooking. Even cars are sectioned into gender areas with fast sports cars being naturally masculine and mini van’s being associated with “soccer Mom’s.

*The idea is that various technologies are being gendered everywhere even if the technologies are similar in their usage.


“In the early medieval West, a time of significant advance in technology, men consciously sought to imitate their male god—master craftsman of the universe by assuming a new God-like posture.” (The Religion of Technology)

Did Victor try to achieve this?


* In chapter 3, Victor states:

“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

*Above, Victor relates to Walton how his chemistry professor, M. Waldman, ignited in him an uncontainable desire to gain knowledge of the secret of life. Victor is driven by his passion, unable to control it. Further, the glorious, assertive quality of his statement foreshadows the fact that Victor’s passion will not be tempered by any consideration of the possible horrific consequences of his search for knowledge.

* To an extent, Victor will always be regarded as “God-like” for creating his product.

Portrayal of Women in Frankenstein

*Being a woman herself, Shelly portrayed the female gender in her novel as being very passive.

*The female characters suffered, and abruptly died as a consequence.

*Caroline Beaufort: self-sacrificing mother who dies taking care of her adopted daughter, Elizabeth

*Justine: despite her innocence, she is executed for murder

*Female Monster: Aborted even before she was given life as Victor fears yet another monster who may not be under his control

*Elizabeth Lavenza: murdered by the hands of Victor’s creation

*One can argue that Shelley renders her female characters so passive and subjects them to such ill treatment in order to concentrate on the obsessive and destructive behavior that Victor and the monster demonstrate.

How Gendered Technology Becomes an Issue in Frankenstein

*Many critics assumed that Frankenstein was written by Percy Shelly, Mary’s husband.

“It was hard for nineteenth-century critics (and many later ones through the mid-twentieth century) to believe that the young Mary was that good. And literary critics for a long time credited the accomplishment essentially to Percy’s influence and help…” (Preface).

*Some critics also argued this novel is the product of her insanity.

*Shelly was criticized because she broke out of the traditional norm.

*She no longer was the audience of man (not even her husband’s). By writing Frankenstein, she ultimately made everyone her audience.

*Finally, a woman took the lead!

November 6th, 2010

“Dieve—but I’m glad I’m not a hog!”

Posted by munmunmasud in Uncategorized

“The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing—for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back: at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and went sailing down the room, and another, until there was a double line of them, each dangling by a foot and kicking in frenzy—and squealing…There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony…Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats. There was a long line of hogs, with squeals and lifeblood ebbing away together; until at last each started again, and vanished with a splash into a huge vat of boiling water. It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics. And yet somehow the most matter-of-fact person could not help thinking of the pigs; they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury…It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory…—it did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out of his life. And now was one to believe that there was nowhere a god of hogs, to whom this hog personality was precious, to whom these hog squeals and agonies had a meaning? Who would take this hog into his arms and comfort him, reward him for his work well done, and show him the meaning of his sacrifice? Perhaps some glimpse of all this was in the thoughts of our humble-minded Jurgis, as he turned to go on with the rest of the party, and muttered: “Dieve—but I’m glad I’m not a hog!” (Chapter 3, page 35-36)

This rather long “quote” is just one of the many disturbing passages in Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle. This quote best represents a theme of suffrage, which is vividly repetitive throughout the book. From my perspective, I certainly believe that Sinclair incorporated this passage to juxtapose these animals in the factories to the poor and working class people of Chicago—for example, Jurgis Rudkus and his twelve-member family. The disturbing aspect of this passage is the fact that the animals must undergo numerous strategic paths (“knocker,” “killing bed,” “butcher”) for the worst outcome—death. This is similar to the “pathway” Jurgis and his family lived, as they too underwent numerous adversities, illnesses, and deaths.

Sinclair tactically incorporated such a passage and that too, towards the very beginning of the book to inform the reader how harshly these animals were killed and packaged. Deliberately, or not, Sinclair is stating the obvious—the person behind the machines are also in the position of the animals being killed, both butcher and animal are victims. The animal is the victim of the butcher, and the butcher is the victim of capitalism. Hence, the strong have and always will prey on the weak.

The quote, “for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back,” resembles immigrants who hear about America and are relentless to achieve something in a land where money comes in abundance, or so they assume. These assumptions are derived from success stories passed on from the relatives or simple town dwellers. And so, the person becomes entangled in this web of lies and achieves to become a successful American. The immigrant begins his journey to America, facing problems along the way, and plenty more after establishing a life in America. In comparison to the hog, the immigrant cannot manage to go back to wherever he has come from because he is impoverished, does not have enough money, or has simply died from countless complications. The quote, “at the top of the wheel he was shunted off upon a trolley, and went sailing down the room. And meantime another was swung up, and went sailing down the room, and another,” portrays the lives of many immigrants, that is swiftly spiraling downwards. And as mentioned, one by one, each immigrant is becoming the victim of unfair work wages, hours and mistreatment.

The following quote, “they were so innocent, they came so very trustingly and they were so very human in their protests—and so perfectly within their rights! They had done nothing to deserve it; and it was adding insult to injury” can also be related to the lives of the newly migrated immigrants. Jurgis and his family were “innocent.” However, each member was taken advantage of in the workforce. His wife, Ona was raped by her manager. Even though Teta Elzbieta was old, she was given multiple jobs that required hard labor (managing heavy equipment, scrubbing floors) for low wage. Marija was a strong woman; therefore, she was hired to do a man’s job for half the price. Soon after, her husband dies at work, being swarmed with rats and so, Marija ultimately resorts to prostitution. Clearly, none of the characters have done anything to “deserve” such hardships. Ultimately, these occurrences did in fact add “insult to injury.”

“Meantime, heedless of all these things, the men upon the floor were going about their work. Neither squeals of hogs nor tears of visitors made any difference to them; one by one they hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats.” This portion of the quote is a direct parallel of the relationship between the factory worker and his superintendent. The superintendent is a wealthy man, he his ruthless and will take away the worker’s job in an instant because he is powerful. The worker’s “tears” will not make “any difference” to him. The slitting of the hog’s throat is analogous to a superintendent firing a worker.

Sinclair writes, “It was all so very businesslike that one watched it fascinated. It was porkmaking by machinery, porkmaking by applied mathematics.” The term “businesslike” can be referred to politics and the very business mentality of it. Jurgis, of course was associated with politics when he assisted a corrupt political boss, Mike Scully. That too consisted of applied mathematics as he was a member of the political scheme, undermining the efforts of the union while being paid with corrupt money.

The last portion of the quote is quite ironic. Jurgis states, “but I’m glad I’m not a hog!” In reality, most immigrants similar to Jurgis were just like the “hog” because of the dangers faced at work and home. The hog/immigrant is presumably seen as innocent, naïve, and frail. Therefore, such characteristics only progressed them in becoming the prey of a capitalist society.

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