The Pfeiffer Review
Pfeiffer University Misenheimer, North Carolina 2
Editorial Staff Editor Jonathan Mendle Smith
Faculty Advisor Michelle Jackson
2006-2007 Pfeiffer Review Staff Members
The Pfeiffer Review ÂŠ2007 Reproduction of any material within this publication is prohibited without consent of the artist or author of that particular work.
Statement of Intellectual Sovereignty The Pfeiffer Review is a literary arts publication that relies on the submitted talents and interests of others to exist. This given, our purpose is simply to submit their work to The Pfeiffer Review. We, at The Pfeiffer Review, may or may not agree with the opinions expressed within our publication; nonetheless, we feel that it is our duty to give everyone the chance to express themselves through their talent; as who are we to govern aesthetics and decide what should be deemed art and what should not. We are merely a medium of exchange between the one who wishes to be heard and the one whom wishes to hear. Cover Photo: Brian Hathcock Cover Design: Jonathan Smith and Michelle Jackson
From The Editor Seeking to further the success of the previous editions in portraying a well-rounded Pfeiffer community, I began to explore the areas not often included in the review. This edition includes the classic poetry, short stories, and photography, but it goes further now. Included is an essay in postmodern philosophy, a thesis on Homeric literature, and an out of the ordinary biblical interpretation. The Review is branching out and presenting new and grander work to its readers. My hope is that in issues to come, The Pfeiffer Review includes work from all genres, majors, and backgrounds. This is a lofty aspiration, but I believe that the futureâ€”and by that I mean near future, holds a great deal potential for the Pfeiffer University literary and academic community. As is the case in any production of this magnitude, many people deserve many thanks. First, I thank the wonderful Pfeiffer Review staff of fall 2006 and spring 2007. Your varied perspectives and opinions have put this book together. Second, Professor Michelle Jackson is in honor of many thanks. Her enthusiasm and input in crucial decisions regarding this issue have helped to improve the quality of the issue. I am also indebted to the previous editor, Celsa DeJesĂşs. I became part of the review while she was editor. Celsa and Professor Jackson asked me to become the editor-in-training and eventually take over the journal. Her guidance and ideas gave me the focus and composure to direct the review after she moved on to other areas of passion in her life. Furthermore, the production team for the spoken word CD is in need of honor as well. There hard work and creative talents have aided in the creation of a wonderful accompaniment to this journal. I hope the readers will enjoy the many speakersâ€™ interpretations of the work. Finally, I would like to thank all those that submitted work for consideration in the magazine. To those of you that are included in the issue, congratulations and well done. Thank you for sharing you time and creative talent with the readers of the journal. If your work is not included in this edition, I still thank you for having the courage and passion to share your creativity with the Pfeiffer community. I encourage you, and all those in the Pfeiffer community to submit the things that show their dreams, passions, fears, and pains, so that the Pfeiffer community can share in you inspiration. Jonathan Mendle Smith Editor 2006-2007
Table Of Contents Photograph Photograph I Remember, Sometimes, I Remember In the Darkness of This Day Love Incorporated Photograph Encounters Photography Droplets & Clouds Photograph Dionysus Photograph Just Some Adviceâ€Ś Photograph Nightmare Roars (an inconsistent verse) Photograph Dance Photograph Godâ€™s Soldier Photograph NUMB Photograph Photograph Photograph Assassination Henry Pfeiffer Chapel Revolution Photograph Photograph Heartbeat Photograph Talking to Peter
Benjamin Wallace Brian Hathcock Mitchell Mesimer Brian Hathcock Matthew Acie Brian Hathcock Daniel Eskridge Brian Hathcock Mitchell Mesimer Brian Hathcock Tyler Efird Brian Hathcock Ashley Blair Benjamin Wallace Daniel Eskridge Brian Hathcock Tyler Efird Benjamin Wallace Tim Galarde Brian Hathcock Tasha Curlee Brian Hathcock Brian Hathcock Brian Hathcock Mitchell Mesimer Brittnay Crawford Mitchell Mesimer Jessica Cook Brian Hathcock Mitchell Mesimer Brian Hathcock Daniel Eskridge
9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43
Photograph Photograph Buffalo River Photograph Earth Music Photograph Severed Vine Photograph One night among these trees Photograph Butterfly Photograph Photograph Street Light No. 14 Photograph The Worldâ€™s Greatest Teacher Photograph Photograph Photograph Hope Photograph Paper Pig Photograph Siren Song Photograph The Secret of Harrimanâ€™s Pond Photograph Photograph Photograph The Epic Cycle Photograph The Posthuman Identity Photograph Photograph Photograph
Brian Hathcock 44 Jessica Cook 45 Mitchell Mesimer 46 Benjamin Wallace 47 Tyler Efird 48 Jessica Cook 49 Penny Harper 50 Brian Hathcock 52 Mitchell Mesimer 53 Brian Hathcock 54 Mitchell Mesimer 55 Brian Hathcock 56 Benjamin Wallace 57 Jonathan Smith 58 Brian Hathcock 59 Daniel Wilson 60 Jessica Cook 61 Brian Hathcock 62 Brian Hathcock 63 Brittnay Crawford 64 Brian Hathcock 65 Ralph Brown 66 Benjamin Wallace 68 John Grosvenor 69 Brian Hathcock 73 John Grosvenor 74 Brian Hathcock 79 Brian Hathcock 80 Brian Hathcock 81 Ashley Blair 82 Brian Hathcock 90 Tyler Efird 91 Benjamin Wallace 101 Brian Hathcock 102 Brian Hathcock 103
I Remember, Sometimes, I remember I remember, looking deep into your dark brown, eyes. I remember, your voice had such a mellow and soothing tone, calm as the heavens appear. I remember, your happiness filled my soul, and beat through my heart. I remember, the laughter we used to share, the joyful expressions that gleamed your face. Sometimes, we never used words, silence was the language of choice. Sometimes, I hated when you spoke at all, the anger of a young child. Sometimes, you were all I had, when gloom was known all too well. Sometimes, your arms held me from hell, the fierce fires that surrounded. I remember, you lived for me, each day ensuring I was safe. I remember, the day you thought everything was fine, you left me here on my own. I remember, being thankful you were no longer in pain, but knowing I could never move on. I remember, Those nights I cried alone in bed, wondering if you knew at all. Mitchell Mesimer
In the Darkness of This Day
Love Incorporated Manufactured merriness, vacant smiles masking disdain, canned “how are you’s” Mass produced to deceive, Mechanical rigidness mistaken for humanity and even worse interest, Unexpected gifts to “appreciate you” on holidays, Wow, that was so surprising, I totally wasn’t expecting a present on my birthday, Trained services, void of real emotion, Pain shielded by deep blue contacts, Red lipstick tricks the onlooker, Bright eyes and clown smiles, Reflecting a mirage, Shaking hands, Knives hidden in sleeves, I swear I am a hard worker, Until I finish my ninetieth day, Weariness and crying babies, A changed person immured in matrimony, I don’t know who you are, But this is who I am, Why didn’t you say something, Why did you wear the clothes I bought, And trim your hair to my delight, I even bought you braces, And Blue eye contacts… Assembly line love, Delusions considered normal, Daguerreotype ideas of love relationships, Reality unromantic, We were really only interested in each other, Not in love. How do I escape this existence, Either I stay or pay support, What does that teach children, Responsibility has a price.?! By the way of wayward ending, I bid you “best” wishes, “Thank you’s” made in petrie dishes, I’ll see you later, perhaps, hopefully never, Like trout jumping out of water and forced back in by The gravity of neediness, It sucks me under river currents, Screaming and immersed in water,
My voice moves passive bubbles, For all to see only partially, Causing those to vaguely question my happiness. Matthew Acie
Encounters Nicotine-stained transient awashed In your dust, My sweat Our vomit (He coughs up the remains of your compassion) Stares vacantly into the orange sky Not even mighty Polaris can guide the wanderer home. (Human progress spits upon the firmament) So here I see him, slouched against the Post Office (A staple of modern efficiency) His bleary-red eyes, glazed with drunken despair (Or is it that calm mixed with despair, I can tell you tomorrow night) Come to rest upon my own. With trembling hands he expels his demons and says, “Nourish me with the wine of compassion. Lay upon me the currency of good will. Feed me the manna of heaven.” And I in turn snarl, “Get a job!” And walk back towards the streetlights Where the hue turned distinctly yellow. (If at first you don’t succeed…) Daniel Eskridge
Droplets & Clouds Droplets on the table linen, shed from the heart. The EntrĂŠe, so elegantly arranged, is wholesome, like the love we once held. The Fruit upon the platter is enticing, like the passion once was. Silver utensils arranged with perfection, how we must seem. Puffy Clouds in your glass of wine, lost from your eyes. Mitchell Mesimer
Dionysus I know I know I’m getting older. I know Dionysus was a Greek. Is it cold or hot in summer? I cut the red red meat. I think its hot sunshinning in summer. Or was it Apollo or Dionysus and wine and wine? I’m a Greek God and getting older. Someone once stole something dear of mine. Its raw eyes bleed and bleed and run. What a cold-hearted hot-blooded joke! I think I’ll sit myself down to a cracker and a Coke. Lots of weather this year we’re having tons and tons. Do the long black-haired girls kiss kiss the stained heart of a dying god? I sometimes wonder…I sometimes wonder… About dirt naps taken thirty years ago. I sometimes wonder I just don’t know. And I just don’t now on and on and on. I know I don’t know for miles and so on. Tyler Efird
Just Some Advice… Never offer your Heart to someone who does not know how to Love. or to someone who thinks of love as a Game like ‘Hide and Go Seek’. someone who takes all you have to offer and does not give in return. this person does not know what real love is. Never offer your Heart to a ‘good times’ lover. your unconditional Love will manifest itself into a Thanksgiving dinner for the Selfish And weak-at-heart. They will squeeze your sponge-heart Dry. their love will only remain as Ice once the Fire goes out. If you find yourself giving your Heart to someone who does not know how to Love, Here is what you Must do: Close up the window to your Soul so they are not able to See in.
The next time they run to you, Let them chase after you and your Heart of hearts. It will then be their turn to Cry enough tears for the River Jordan and walk through a blazing Fire Only to find you are no longer Waiting On the other side. Make certain that they Resolve themselves to be unworthy of your Love, and that they pray for Forgiveness for any hurt They may have caused. Now, Free yourself. discover your talents, let God lead you in the path that will Fulfill your own Dreams. No longer will you Live in the Shadows Of those too yellow to Live Passionately and Honestly-
And, remember this: Never give up on Love. just Let go of those who do not Know how to Love. Ashley Blair
Nightmare Roars (an inconsistent verse) I. I am Murdered aristocracy I am Butchered generosity I am Outlawed true democracy I am Simple beastly poverty I am Soft and tender sodomy (Before that glimpse you caught of me) I am… Lavished promiscuity Inconsistent continuity Simple ingenuity Misplaced opportunity
I am the voice that you can’t ignore You break upon the marble floor Your eyes are wet your head is shorn You stroke the oozing mess of sores You scream at God “Dear Christ, No more!” It’s deafening how this nightmare roars.
The universe is torn apart Eclectic in its despair The men who scream with empty hearts And minds that need repair Will overturn the ragged tide So they can sit in peace And they will choose a spirit guide And nightmare roars will cease Daniel Eskridge
Dance Would that I could tear out the eyes of man And give him the gift of song for sight. Would that I could disguise his staggered walk In light-hearted, high leaping steps. Would that man… Then might he learn to see rhythm. Then might he take back up his sacred heart of dance. And all people say, “What is death to an immortal?” And all sky-grazing, star-kissing, cloud-grinding immortals shout, “Life is not an ending!” So spoke a dancer once. So spoke one of those who put the old gods to death, Buried upside-down in a drop of sweat beneath a body’s voice− A long moaning of soaked flesh with the rhythm of beauty. Dance hot-throated, hot-eyed lover− dance. Dance lustful dreamer and seduce your maiden earth. Man− Would that could take the pleasure of her body. Dance− More beautiful than a peacock making love to an elephant aboard a sinking ship! Tyler Efird
God’s Soldier Today I lost a friend But God gained a soldier, To help fight evil To help fight his war. Today I lost a friend But Heaven gained an angel, To protect those of us left behind To watch over us and keep us well. Today I lost a friend But in my memory he will remain, He will live with me forever I’ll cherish the pleasure and release the pain. Today I lost a friend With dignity and honor he did die, Although we’ll miss him here His star will forever shine in our sky. Today I lost a friend But never forget what is seldom stated, That God needs soldiers like him To clean the mess that we have created. Tim Galarde
Numb Numb is paradise Numb is the best feeling No shame No self doubt Self Ingested confidence It… Numbs me From the pain I feel From the boredom of the everyday Induced happiness Imaginary strength Not Bliss But complacency… Kinda… Empty The me I see in the mirror Is not me Tasha Curlee
Assassination Dice my soul, make me grasp Sheer my lungs, a screaming wail Slice my heart, let it bleed Gouge my ribs, agonizing tear Decapitate my being, grotesque revolt Crucify my love, all that I hold Drag my remains mercy I plead Kill my spirit, hateful pain Mitchell Mesimer
Henry Pfeiffer Chapel
Revolution My job is this: king of what is. My country falls, I care, not at all. The poor are poor, let them stay. The rich are rich, they shall remain. Hard is this job? Ha, not in the least. I sit here and watch, as they call me a beast. What else do they ask? A revolution they seek! I am their king, they shall listen when I speak. This problem I shall fix, this problem as I see. Theyâ€™ll all be killed, their death will set me free. Mitchell Mesimer
Heartbeat one moment, one second, one life can change, forever. every minute, every hour, in each passing day; heartbeat. an everyday miracle, somehow unknown, forcing life, into the mind, body, and soul; heartbeat. each beat, each stroke, the beating: stop and go, galvanizing shock, pushing, extreme; heartbeat. life can change, love strikes, hard, an inevitable power, grasping and clinging; heartbeat. unleash every desire, once, twice, four million, but not another; heartbeat. like the one before, age counts twice, energy slows, one final pulse, just one; heartbeat. in a systematic flow. Mitchell Mesimer
Talking to Peter Beyond the great chasm of lies and deception She bears a great truth of immaculate conception Despite our disdain and pretension and unbridled anger We’ve come to agree that there is no relief From the ravenous bulldog, the commanders and chiefs And the wide cockeyes grin of a maniac set for the kill. Push me down these winding stairs, Gouge out my eyes, pull out my hair And let this soft horizon level me The smell of life was on your breath (A fragrance of both love and death) A fine way to end the summer… The end was between both the plans and the schemes In the voice of the people and the simple mans dreams And the light autumn breeze which now dances between all the trees. In the murky abyss I have sunk like a stone In reflections of fears and the doubts yet unknown And it makes us all feel like we’re blind, deaf and dumb…for the moment. I shake my fist, I scrape my bone, I break my wrist, I’m all alone And muffled silence tells us what we’re worth Get your feelings off your chest Choose the root that seems the best… Daniel Eskridge
Buffalo River Buffalo River, wash my tears Rolling waters, calm my fears Current deep, never calm Spirit of Desire, burning fire Wash me cool, I am tired Buffalo River, take me home Ancestry great, it fills my soul Exist forever, in my mind Childhood is gone, but still, you I find Living eternal, give me will Love runs through, like water in a mill Buffalo River, hold my hand Pull me deep, Iâ€™ll be a man You are my home, you are my heart You comfort me, weâ€™ll never part Buffalo River, burry my soul Mitchell Mesimer
Earth Music I remember− What it was to sweat Out under the sun− Burning, blistering, blazing Stars in our eyes. We sat out in the fields Back in those days. We sat right out in the fields Staring straight through the sun. We stared so much Back then− Back then when we used to sweat− Out under the sun− Our devil eyes digging scorched earth− Enraptured by the fire− Of the sun’s hot flashing drum. And that was all the rhythm Back then. Back then that was all the music− What we devils like to call earth music− To sweat out under the sun. Tyler Efird
A Blessing Unbundled
Godâ€™s will pollinated, in union with Abram and Sarai. One blessing in three parts. Not equal. A life no longer mine. As the game begins, motherhood forfeits the prize. A path thrust upon me--Shall a great nation spring From Egyptian womb?
Envy Laid Bare
Sarai---barren and bitter sweet scents gloved from the mistressâ€™s hand; betrayed by a green fire. Eyes that no longer anticipate The child---a hated seed. Tears of blood now stain the bonds of friendship. A slave ripened and powerful. No longer a second? The river flows through me, not her. Worn hands resist and knock--Destiny is not home.
Wondering or Wandering?
A needleless compass guides as Footsteps turn; the wind blown and
directed by an unkind hand. A voice beckons--Hollow steps that echo not Todayâ€Ś The fruit transmogrified and hungry. Will tomorrow ever come? Running no more, An earthly life spring washes over me--quenchingâ€Ścleansing. The ebbing pain of wounds forgotten? A fresh blood surges forth, calling from within--Staining the map. Darkness delivers the winged light. Embrace the future, or so I hear. Promises made from above--An about-face journey; for Tomorrow the bell tolls.
Offspring born of green-eyed monsters Ishmael. Penny Harper
One night among these trees Dew drops Thick and heavy Mist rises from the crisp ground Light and airy Evergreens tower above the foggy horizon Calm and surreal Cricket chirps wake fresh beams of sun Distant and far Water rushes over an enormous cliff Fresh and everlasting Rocks grab and slow the rushing tides Steady and stable A small life rises toward the eternal sky Movement and shudder Our bodies begin to wake Inhale and exhale Fresh morning life wakens all the senses Close and together We have merged into one Comfort and peace A night here with you in my arms Mitchell Mesimer
Butterfly Delicate, Beautiful, And Free; Dancing In Air: From Flower To Flower; Sharing With Them Agile Grace; While Secretly Stealing Nectar From The Depths Of Their Souls. Mitchell Mesimer
Street Light No. 14 My cup no longer warms my hand, It falls to the ground. The constant hum of the street lamps keep me awake. Crooked tree limbs with two dead leaves, Glow yellow-orange, the light hides their brown. Tonight, I walk past no one as my breath glows peach. The street light ahead is out, No tree limbs or peach breath. Just the cold night air, no cup to warm my hand. Jonathan Smith
The World’s Greatest Teacher There once was a man Some would call a preacher, Others would call him The world’s greatest teacher. A blessing sent From God above, A living sacrifice to show God’s love He walked on water and Calmed the sea, This world has known No greater than He. Walking perfection He told no lie, He lived his life To one day die. He died on the cross for All of us, To pay for our sins, Our every lust. By death on a cross He freed us all, How do we repay? Answer the call. Called to ministry in Many ways, What is our reward? Eternal days I know I will never be As great as he, But forever his disciple I will be. Daniel Wilson *This poem was published in the previous issue of The Pfeiffer Review, under the wrong author. Our apologies to the author and all parties involved. It is republished here, under the correct author.
Paper Pig Wolves. The horses were the first to know. They could not see them, but they could smell the wolves. Soon the prince and his daughter and his servant and the driver of the sled and the real pig that sat in its cage would see among the shadows skulking phantoms with ghostly gleaming eyes. Soon the skulking phantoms with ghostly gleaming eyes would materialize into hungry, predatory wolves and give chase to the horses and the sled that carried the prince and his daughter and his servant and the driver of the sled and the real pig that sat in its cage. During the winter when food is scant, the wolves investigate anything that moves or makes noise, even very slight movement or very quiet murmur. During the winter when the river is frozen it is easier for the horses to pull the sled across the ice on the river than through the deep heavy snow on the road. But during the winter easy movement on the frozen river is easily seen, as there is no cover; no place to hide from the ever searching, ever curious ghostly gleaming eyes of ravenous wolves. And, during the winter on a bitter cold and hushed night, even muffled feet and hoofs make echoing calling sounds to the ever listening, ever aware ears of rapacious wolves. As the horses and the sled that carried the prince and his daughter and his servant and the driver of the sled and the real pig that sat in its cage passed, a few wolves sauntered out of the dark gray night onto the ice and set to bounding and loping behind the sled. More, and then more joined. They grew in numbers to a pack, a pursuing pack. The nervous horses, with their eyes wide and searching frightfully, with their nostrils wide and snorting fearfully, did not hesitate to respond to the driver of the sled as he commanded a trot. Wolves, and more wolves dashed from the banks and entered the deliberate chase. Keeping a menacing distance, but not too close behind the sled, the shadowy pack trailed. Within the following mass the prince and his daughter and his servant and the driver of the sled and the real pig that sat in its cage caught glimpses of chilling yellow fangs flashing and sinister hoary lips curling and damp black noses sniffing. As the growing pack closed on the sled there came howling and growling a chorus of ravenous glee. The prince motioned to his servant to open the smallest chest and remove one of the paper bags. The prince told his daughter to fashion the paper bag into the image of the real pig that sat in its cage. When the paper pig was formed, the prince ordered his servant to torment the real pig that sat in its cage. As the real pig that sat in its cage squealed and cried and sobbed the prince caught the squeals and cries and sobs and put them into the bag that looked like the pig that sat in its cage. The lead wolf jumped onto the back of the sled and with ominous sneer studied the prince holding the paper pig. Before the lead wolf could crouch and lunge at the prince, the prince with a great grand gesture threw the paper pig from the sled. The lead wolf hastily jumped and then tumbled after the fleeing paper pig. Making ferocious noises the pack members gathered around the paper pig eyeing it, and each other. Some wolves snapped at the paper pig. Some wolves fought among themselves to get closer to the paper pig. In the excitement the paper pig was slashed and the squeals and cries and sobs that were held inside spilled out onto the ice and swirled and whirled about the paws and jaws of the snarling wolves. Some of the squeals and cries and sobs tried to escape by skidding across the frozen river ice to the banks where they darted and diminished away across the snowcovered meadows. The other squeals and cries and sobs tried to escape by riding the wind into the deep forest where they echoed and faded among the branches. While a few wolves continued
their greedy fight over the remains of the paper pig, all the other wolves pursued the scattering squeals and cries and sobs. All the while the horses steadily trotted away taking with them the sled with the prince and his daughter and his servant and the driver of the sled and the real pig that sat in its cage. After telling the paper pig story, my grandfather sat back in his chair and asked what the story was teaching us. There followed a few moments of wide-eyed stares and frowns from the young children and then my grandfather turned to the other listeners and asked, “How would you use a paper pig?” The cousin who held an elected office said, “There are ways to evade the trouble makers of the other party and their newspaper cronies.” The father who owned a business said, “When your competitors try to steal your ideas, let them take something pretty that has no value.” The old uncle who had been a soldier said, “Keep the enemy occupied with a decoy while you plan their defeat. “ Grandmother said, “When the neighborhood busybodies ask too many questions, give them a story that will make them look foolish as they prattle.” A pretty woman said, “When the boys are bothering you, give them something to do.” Watch for those who would harm you, or delay you, or distract you, or take something of value from you. When they get too close, toss them a paper pig. Ralph Brown
Siren Song Prologue: The best mystery anthology ever broadcast was arguably the radio drama Escape. Aired from July 7, 1947 to September 25, 1954, Escape ran the gamut from westerns to dramatizations of classical literature to tales of horror. Radio actor William Conrad (later star of TV’s “Cannon” and “Jake and the Fat Man”) would introduce the show: “Tired of the everyday routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all?”
…at which point Paul Frees (later the voice of the cartoon villain “Boris Badenov”) would respond: “We offer you – Escape! Escape – designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure!”
After a musical interlude, the listener would be commanded to escape to a specific locale that lends itself to mysterious adventure. Let’s imagine we’re listening to a revival of Escape, and let’s create an actor we’ll call “J.R. Johnny” (as well as supporting actors mentioned at the end). The following adventure could have been just as real in 1954 as it would be today. “This week escape to a lonely stretch of highway in the New Mexico desert and to the voice that leads from one danger to another, as told in “Siren Song,” starring J.R. Johnny.” The story: I don’t understand how I could have gotten lost. I’ve made this two hundred mile business trip from my home in El Paso, Texas to Douglas, Arizona at least twenty times – five of them at night – and all by myself. I would cross the Rio Grande on Route 273, pass through Sunland Park, New Mexico, and take Route 9 through Columbus, Hachita, Playas, and Animas. Then I’d turn left on Route 80, pass through Rodeo, and go the remaining fifty miles to Douglas. I enjoyed the trip because I never tired of the breathtaking view of the mountains of southern New Mexico. Despite the leisurely pace, it took me only approximately five hours to make the trip. It’s been almost three hours, and I should have passed through Columbus by now. It was close to 9 PM, my gas gauge was almost on empty, and I had been in such a hurry to leave home that I didn’t eat supper. If nothing else, I could surely use a cup of coffee. Then I saw it ahead: Milnor’s Café – Fine Food, Entertainment Nightly. I stopped and entered the roadside diner that was bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside. I sat at the only empty table and ordered the daily special – three pieces of southern-fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and coffee. A surly waiter tossed the plate down without saying a word. At the next table, a heavy-set guy in a Stetson turned to me and spoke. “Don’t worry partner, he’s rude to everybody.” The food was terrible. The chicken consisted of two wings and a leg. The wings were so crisp that I couldn’t separate the skin and meat from the bone, and the leg was so tough that someone had to have chased that chicken a mile before it was caught and slaughtered. The green beans were tasteless, and the mashed potatoes were filled with half-cooked lumps. The coffee was bitter and oily, probably the bottom of the urn from the morning brew. I could only eat around the lumps and drink a few sips of that day-old java. The entertainment that followed was something else, though: an excellent eight-piece western band. After doing three instrumentals with two of the best fiddlers I have ever heard, the leader introduced one of the most gorgeous ladies I have ever seen – Vicki Vernon, the band’s female vocalist. Her brunette tresses complemented the Stetson she was wearing and made a figure eight over her shoulders as she moved her head in rhythm. I was mesmerized as her eyes were transfixed on mine while she sang “I Want to Ride into the Sunset with You”. I was more relaxed than I had been in months.
“Hey, Mac! Pay your bill and get out of here! This isn’t any motel!” It was that grumpy waiter, shaking me. I must have dozed off. I looked up at an empty stage. “Where’s Vicki?” I asked. “The show’s been over for an hour. We quit serving thirty minutes ago!” snapped the waiter. I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 PM. I had been asleep for an hour and a half. I paid my bill, wondering how much chicken, beans, potatoes, and coffee must have gone into today’s garbage. As I walked out the door, something struck me hard against the back of my head. I don’t know how long I lay on that ledge halfway down the ravine, or even how I got there. When I regained consciousness, I looked up and saw the Milnor’s Café sign made visible by a full moon. My head hurt something awful, like I had been hit with a hammer. I brushed my hand down the back of my head and felt glass splinters and coagulated blood. I didn’t know whether to find a hospital or try to get to my appointment in Douglas. Either way, I’d have to get out of there. I climbed to the top of the ravine and to the front of Milnor’s, but I could find my car nowhere. Thinking I’d been robbed, I reached into my pocket and was surprised to find my wallet still there – and it still contained my money. Why would they steal my car but not my wallet? The illuminated clock inside Milnor’s gave the time as 3:30 AM. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see something familiar at the bottom of the ravine. Groping my way to the bottom, I gasped! It was my car, and the keys were in the door’s keyhole. Yes, I know I should have realized that I’d been set up, but I really didn’t have a choice. The engine turned over immediately, and even as I noticed the gas gauge pointing suspiciously to “full”, I was not phased. I followed the dirt road down the ravine until I came to a paved road. I instinctively turned left, wanting to kick myself for not asking someone at Milnor’s where the nearest town was, or even if I were still in New Mexico – I just kept driving. As it was stuffy inside the car, I opened the window and was surprised to hear the melodious strains of gorgeous Vicki Vernon’s equally gorgeous voice chanting “I Want to Ride into the Sunset with You” over and over and over. That’s funny, I thought. I don’t remember turning on the radio. I reached over, grasped the knob, and came to my senses as I realized that the radio had never, in fact, been turned on. I continued to drive, and as my mind became relaxed, I started to hear Vicki’s voice again. I came to the end of the road, and Vicki’s voice seemed to shift to the right, as though she wanted me to drive in that direction. I felt as though I were in another trance, following what seemed to be a siren song. Night turned into dawn, and I could see what seemed to be the outskirts of a town ahead – and a police roadblock. I rolled down my window an inch. I could at last report that I had been assaulted. “Officer, I need help,” I almost cried as my car reached the roadblock. “Get out!” the officer ordered. “Get out or I’ll break that window and yank you out!” Flabbergasted and thinking I was mistaken for someone else, I gave the officer my driver’s license. He demanded I give him my keys, which he tossed to another officer, who opened the trunk of my car and shouted “It’s here, just as that phone call said it would be.” The first officer grabbed my arms and handcuffed me. “You’re under arrest for the murder of Vicki Vernon!” What? It can’t be! I kept repeating to myself. I got loose from the officer and, although handcuffed, ran to the trunk of my car. It was Vicki, all right. It looked like she had been shot through the head and back. I moaned uncontrollably for about three minutes while the officer
kept yelling at me to shut up. He finally swung his night stick at me, and I felt another sharp blow to the back of my head. I was only half-conscious when I was booked. I passed out in the police station. I awoke in a jail cell with another inmate staring at me. “So you’re the creep who killed that girl! You don’t have to worry about a trial, ‘cause I’m going to kill you right here.” I shouted for the jailer, but nobody seemed to hear me. The inmate pulled me off the bed, grabbed my head, and bashed it against the cinderblock wall. By now my head must have had almost as many lumps as those potatoes at Milnor’s Café. I was still conscious but knew I was going to pass out any minute. I leaned against the wall, but that loony cretin decided to run towards me. At that point I lost my balance and fell. He missed me and his head smacked into the wall, knocking him unconscious. At that point, the jailer just happened to pass by. He walked into the cell. “It’s bad enough you kill young women. Now you’re trying to kill the other inmates,” he shouted at me. Who cares what he thinks or does. I’m going to hemorrhage to death here anyway. I read somewhere that just before you die, the body releases a chemical that makes you feel at ease. My pain quickly subsided, and I lay in a peaceful position for awhile. Then I suddenly found myself spiraling upward toward a distant light. My eyes were transfixed on the light source, as it slowly increased in size while I seemed to be riding a merry-go-round in another dimension. When I reached the light, I opened my eyes – and there she was. “I must have died and gone to heaven.” “Well, not quite,” she responded. “You’re in an Albuquerque hospital.” Albuquerque? I thought. Shades of Bugs Bunny. I really made a wrong turn. “You’re not Vicki?” “No, I’m her sister Vera. We were afraid you weren’t going to make it.” She told me that two detectives at the precinct where I was booked thought the whole story sounded too fantastic. They investigated and found that Vicki was married to a man named Lou Winton, but she walked out on him a month before that fateful night I saw her perform. According to the band’s drummer, Winton would frequent Milnor’s Café when she performed and beg her to come back. The night I was there, the drummer saw them get into a heated argument over the way she would look at men in the audience while she sang. Milnor, when confronted with the drummer’s testimony and threatened with prison, admitted that as Vicki turned around and started to leave the room, Winton pulled out a 22 handgun and shot her twice. They figured that with me asleep and unaware of what had happened, I could be framed. Winton hid outside the front door and waited for me to pay my bill and leave. He then hit me with a beer bottle and staged the scene. Then he called the New Mexico State Police and gave them my license number and description of my vehicle. The handgun was found and traced to a Socorro pawn shop, whose records showed that it was sold to Winton. Ballistics would prove that it was the gun that killed Vicki. The detectives assumed I had been sent to the jail after I was booked. After they found me unconscious on the floor of the jail, they had me brought to the hospital. The officers who arrested me, along with the jailer, were suspended without pay. All charges against me were dropped. Did Vicki really lead me to Albuquerque where her sister was? A physician at the hospital told me that what I heard was my own mind playing tricks on me. I was so tired and weak that with the addition of the air blown from my window being down, Vicki’s voice was being played
to me from my own brain. Yet somehow I believe that even in death Vicki found a way to bring her killer to justice – even if it meant I would be sacrificed in the process. Epilogue: “You have just heard “Siren Song”, starring J.R. Johnny. “Siren Song” was written by R.C. Cokesberry and directed by M.S. Doss. Others in the cast were Hal Emerson, Twyla Finch, McNeill Mundie, and John Cannadent. “Next week: You were trespassing on vacant property where your parents told you not to go. You witnessed murder victims being buried. Now, twenty-five later, you are in a position to reveal the secret from which there is no escape. “Tune in again next week when Escape presents “The Secret of Harriman’s Pond,” starring Reed Hicks. “This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.” John Grosvenor
The Secret of Harriman’s Pond I It’s been twenty-five years since I witnessed that tragic incident. I never knew who did it, or why. I never had a clue who the victims were. I couldn’t admit that I saw it happen. We called it the Harriman place, and I had to pass it every day on my way to and from school. About 200 feet from the house was a pond. Actually, the house went back further than the Harrimans. Originally built in 1761, the house was burned to the ground twice – once during the American Revolution and again during the Civil War – then rebuilt each time on the original foundation. The history of the pond was less clear. Unlike most ponds, the land surrounding it rose as one approached it, forming a parapet except on the narrow end. Weeping willow trees neatly framed it, and there was a forest surrounding more than half of the perimeter. One of my teachers speculated that it was a water-filled meteor crater, but whatever the origin, there were fish in it. The Harrimans bought the place in 1910. His name was Curt, or Burt, or Bart, or Bard, or something like that. He died of a stroke in 1957, so I don’t remember him. The house wasn’t even wired for electricity until 1961, and I don’t think a telephone was installed until years later. I never knew much about his wife, either. Walking to school with my friend Norm Shane, we used to talk about her and the stories the kids in school told about “Old Lady Harriman,” as we called her. By the time I reached the third grade, Old Lady Harriman started sitting on her porch all day even during wintertime, always wearing a black nightgown and holding a broom. Norm and I referred to her as “Witch Hazel.” With her long, crooked nose and pointy jaw, she indeed looked like the character from the “Little Lulu” comic books. Every time we’d pass her house after school, she would be there shaking her fists at us. One day Norm suddenly turned to her and shouted “I’ll ram that broom down your throat, you old bat!” We saw her walk toward us with the broom raised, and we ran home. I was breathing hard as I entered my house and slammed the door. “What’s your hurry, Johnny?” my mother queried. “You’ve never been this anxious to get home.” “Witch Hazel was chasing Norm and myself”, I answered, still trying to catch my breath. “Who was chasing you?” “Old Lady Harriman”. “Her name’s Myrtle; ‘Mrs. Harriman’ to you. I don’t ever want you to call her or anyone else ‘Old Lady’!” “But she’s been shaking her fist at us.” “Probably because that friend of yours has been teasing her. What did he say to her this time?” She paused as if she were expecting an answer, but I got tongue tied. She then said something that sounded like “Thalheimer’s disease,” but I was still focused on Myrtle Harriman raising her broom as though she were going to hurl it at us like a javelin. During the summer of 1971 and at the age of 87, Old Lady Harriman died. I got the word just after Labor Day on a very hot September morning during the third day of school. “Hey Johnny, you hear that Old Lady Harriman croaked,” Norm shouted that morning. “She’s been dead for several months, and a dog even got into the house and ate part of her legs. Billy Franks has a photo of her. She’s got big holes in her thighs, and you can even see the bones.”
Later that week the county newspaper ran a story about Myrtle Harriman that was in some respects not as sensational as Norm Shane’s vocal obituary. It seems that the mailman stopped to have her sign for a certified letter. Detecting a foul odor, he notified the police. Her body was discovered in the bedroom. She had apparently died in her sleep, and she was so bloated that dental records were needed to recognize her. Someone else had apparently collected her mail during this time, although there was no evidence of foul play. She had been dead about a month, not several months, and there was no mention about a dog or any other animal getting into the house. I don’t know what kind of a picture Billy Franks had, but I’ll bet it was not a picture of Myrtle Harriman. The article also gave her late husband’s name as “K.C. Harriman,” so I still didn’t know exactly what his first name was. Like any urban legend, Norm’s story never died. To this day people are still talking about the animal who chewed on Myrtle Harriman’s cadaver. The Harriman place would be vacant for three years. These would be three of the most monumental years of my life. II The next summer was one of the driest on record. It hadn’t rained since mid-March, and by late August the water table had dropped so low that the county was forced to order restrictions on water use. All the local creeks had dried up, and I was not surprised when Norm came by the house with his news. “Hey Johnny, Harriman’s Pond has completely dried up and the kids are finding all kinds of valuable things. Billy Franks found a huge jar full of old coins, and the other kids have dug up old bottles and even belt buckles.” My parents had stepped out for the afternoon, so Norm and I wandered over there. Word certainly traveled fast. There were about thirty kids at the pond when I got there, and Billy had just dragged his wagon out of the pond at its shallowest end. On it was an enormous old glass jar with pieces of rusted metal still clinging to the mouth. It was filled with hundreds of old coins. There were several seated Liberty quarters and silver dollars, shield nickels, large and half cents, and many Indian head cents. In the wagon were also ten small aqua-glass Pepsi and Coca Cola bottles with embossed lettering at the bottom or the sides. After gawking at Billy’s treasures, I figured I’d better stake out my own section of the pond. Nobody seemed to be over at the deep end where the floor was the muddiest. What first looked like a perfectly round hole in the mud was the top of a beautiful amethyst-purple bottle, most of which was stuck in the mud. After breaking the suction and wiping off the worst of the mud, I could tell that the rest of the bottle was hexagonal in shape, and it had some lettering on the base. There were also some natural bubbles, typical of early glass. I figured it would make a spectacular coin bank after I cleaned it. I stared at the deep hole as it slowly filled with water. My concentration was broken by a familiar voice. “Johnny!” I looked up and saw my mother screaming at me. “Get out of there and come home.” I waddled through the mud past the kids still digging, out of the pond through the shallow end, and I removed my muddy shoes and got in the car. My mother screamed at me all the way home and then some. She and Dad had gotten home about ten minutes after I left and she saw Billy Franks pulling his wagon along the road. Billy told her where I was and all about the wonderful stuff kids were finding. “You were trespassing. I don’t care if the house is vacant. The Harriman children could have you arrested!”
“Gee, Mom, all the other kids were there, and the stuff they were finding was thrown away. Just look at the beautiful bottle I found in the pond!” “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t belong to you, and besides, you could have been killed or injured in that mud.” “But Norm’s mother let him go.” “Norm’s mother doesn’t care! She wants him out of the house. I care!” With that, she grabbed my purple bottle and told me that I was not entitled to it. III I was determined to go back to that dried-up pond and see what else I could find. I had my chance that Saturday. My parents were invited to a dinner party at my father’s boss’ country club, and they could not find a babysitter. “You are forbidden from leaving the yard”, my mother firmly ordered. “You are especially forbidden from being on or near the Harriman property. If you go there, with or without your delinquent buddy Norm Shane, you won’t sit down for a week! Understand?” Of course I said “yes,” but I also knew how long those parties lasted. As soon as they left at 4 PM, I high-tailed it for Harriman’s Pond – and without Norm. I was in luck – nobody else was there. I went to the place where I found the purple bottle. I figured most of the rest of the pond had been picked over. There were plenty of old rusty cans down there. I spotted an old small aquaglass Pepsi bottle with the neck broken off. I figured I could cut the jagged part off with Dad’s bottle cutter. Then I heard the voice that would haunt me for the rest of my life. “Don’t hurt Mommy!” a young boy screamed. Eight or nine shots rang in succession. I tried to run to the side of the pond opposite the house, my movement slowed by my feet caught in the mire. I managed to scramble up the bank and over the parapet, afraid to move any further. After five minutes of silence, I witnessed four men in business suits and fedoras leaving the Harriman house, carrying a man and a woman. Two other men in dungarees dragged a boy, about nine or ten and a teenaged girl up to the pond. I surmised that all had been shot to death. Then the men in dungarees walked to the middle of the pond and dug a hole in the soft bed. After about an hour of digging they climbed out and dragged the man first, then the woman, then the children, and dropped each in turn into the hole and covered it up. I watched as the six men walked away and drove off. I couldn’t tell anything about the vehicle except that it was black. It was parked on the other side of the house. I ran home, knowing I had to call the police as soon as I got there. I wouldn’t leave my name; I couldn’t leave my name because my mother would beat me when she found out. I kept wondering who those victims were and what they were doing at the Harriman place. When I got home, it took ten minutes for me to catch my breath and get enough nerve to call the police. Then my parents walked in. It was only 6 PM, and it was still light out. “Johnny, dear, we’re home,” my mother chanted. “I thought you wouldn’t be home until about nine,” I responded. “Your father and I got to talking about what happened Wednesday evening. We were sure you’d try to go back to that pond. We ate in a hurry and came home.” Anyway, I’d have another chance to call at church the next day. I’d ask to go to the bathroom during Sunday School but instead call the law.
That night, nature played a cruel trick on me – or maybe it was God punishing me. It rained harder than it had since I could remember, but the forecast didn’t call for rain at all. It rained so hard that it flooded the church basement and we couldn’t go to church the next day. It continued to rain for nearly a week, and on Thursday we got sent home from school because the entire school grounds started to flood. When I woke Saturday morning I heard my parents clapping. The rain had stopped, and the sun was out. Norm interrupted my Saturday morning cartoon watch with a phone call. He had been by the old Harriman place. The pond had completely filled. It would never be empty again. How could I convince the police now that someone was buried six feet under a pond? To make matters worse, I dropped the Pepsi bottle with the broken neck back in the pond when I ran home. At least I still had the purple bottle somewhere – or so I thought. A month later our church had a rummage sale, and I saw a 30-ish man at the cashier with a bottle exactly like the one I found. By the time I got up there, he had left. The cashier had sold the bottle to him for a quarter. My mother had donated the bottle to the church. I suppose she was right, but it pained me to think of Billy with his coins and bottles, and Norm and the others with the things their parents let them keep. For two years I faithfully read the newspaper and listened to every news program I could on TV and radio. This should have alerted my parents – my preferring news programs to cartoons – but I guess they were happy I was interested in things besides cartoons. Anyway, during all this time there were no reports of missing people that fit the four I saw buried. Finally at age 12, Norm told me the Harriman place had sold to a middle-aged couple named “Cortle” – we called them “Ma and Pa Kettle.” I gave up on the secret of Harriman’s Pond. I was beginning to believe that what I saw in Harriman’s Pond never happened. There were never any clues as to who was killed, who did it, or why. At that point, my life went into fast-forward. I grew up, went to college, graduated with a degree in accounting, got married, had three children, then got divorced after seven years of marriage. I married a second time, but after three years and one child, it too ended. It was time for another twist of fate. IV Three tragedies were to occur within a month. My first wife died of breast cancer. Less than a month later, my second wife was killed in an auto accident. Even though our marriages didn’t work out, I still cried when I found out both had died. Two weeks later, my mother died of a heart attack. I actually took time off from my job as a cost accountant to go to my first wife’s funeral. In a way, it was a vacation since the job was such a drudgery. I was told that her parents didn’t want me there, but I went anyway to the funeral home to view the body and to the church for the memorial service. I didn’t go to my second wife’s funeral, but I couldn’t avoid my own mother’s. When the memorial service was over, I was startled by another familiar voice. “Johnny!” Nobody had called me that in years. It was Norm Shane. “I knew your mother didn’t care for me,” said Norm, “but I knew you’d be here, and I just had to see you again.” “What are you doing now?” I asked. “I teach high school biology. Billy Franks became a coin and antiques dealer.” I probably could, too, I thought, if I had beaten Billy to that jar of coins.
“Oh, by the way, the old Harriman place is for sale again”, reported Norm, as though he were reading my thoughts. “The Cortles – the ones we called ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ – died in their sleep at about the same time.” I wonder how much they want for it. “I understand it’s pretty cheap. There are stories going around that it’s haunted. Visions of Old Lady Harriman’s bloated corpse appear from time to time, and sounds of a young boy pleading for someone not to hurt his mother are heard by the pond.” Then it did happen, my thoughts continued. Maybe if I could buy the property and have the pond drained…. My aging father told me that he was selling our family home and moving into one of those old folks’ homes known euphemistically as an “assisted living center.” I would get half the money. Within the next month, I owned the old Harriman place. I spent two nights sleeping on the bed in the guest room before I returned temporarily to my accounting job. I spent much of those days walking around the old pond. Its unusually clear waters revealed perch swimming merrily, but no evidence of coins or soda bottles was ever apparent. Viewed from the end of the driveway, the house and pond formed a serene scene from a June calendar page. I’ve lived in the Harriman place for three years now with my new wife. The local kids love to fish and boat on the pond. I haven’t seen any visions of Myrtle Harriman, either alive or bloated. No visions of a murdered family have been seen, nor have sounds been heard. The pond would never be drained; the police would never be called. Somehow, it doesn’t matter any more. John Grosvenor
The Epic Cycle: The Surrounding Questions and Their Possible Answers
AN INTRODUCTION Before we were able to commit pen to paper, and even before cuneiform, there existed an oral tradition. Instead of texts, oral soothsayers went about telling of great legends and myths that involved such heroes as Achilles and Hektor, and, of course, of Zeus and the masses of gods and goddesses that still surface in cultures and traditions today. Traditionally, the Homeric Epics, that is the Iliad and Odyssey, are thought of as the original and only authentic epic myths of their time. On the contrary, however, the Homeric epics were, more than likely, a very small but influential part of the oral and epic traditions (Burgess). Just as the word tradition denotes, before literacy, oral and epic bards carried on a legacy of passing stories down from generation to generation. Therefore, as one may imagine, myths were often recounted by many different people, and, in result, so began a metamorphosis, as it were, into what we know of these myths today. A significant part of that oral tradition is what scholars tend to call the Epic Cycle. In evaluating the Epic Cycle and the Trojan War as they relate to Homeric and Non-Homeric Texts, I will present and discuss a summary of the Epic Cycle and its individual works, its history and origin, and the role that Homeric tradition plays in the scheme of such oral and written institutions. As Jonathan S. Burgess states in reference to Proclus’ summary, the Epic Cycle is valued more for its “sequence” than for “poetic worth” (16). Therefore, in examining the Epic Cycle, that will be referred to throughout the remainder of this paper as the Cycle, in turn, we are examining the significance of an entire oral tradition, as we know of it today. THE CYCLE: A SUMMARY Although the Cycle and oral tradition, as it were, no longer subsists, the remains present us with fragmented evidence of their original existence. In the Cycle, there remain these identifiable, but somewhat disputed, parts: the Cypria, Homer’s Iliad, the Aithiopis, the Little Iliad, the Ilioupersis, the Nostoi, the Odyssey, and the Telegony (Burgess 143). Some scholars believe that other sections may have existed long ago because what vestiges is very fragmented and aphetic. As previously alluded to, the residual Cycle is of great importance to the study of Homeric and non-Homeric texts. However, the significance of the Cycle will be discussed in a later section of this paper. For now, we shall turn our attention to summarizing each part of the Cycle so that a correlation between the Homeric and non-Homeric epics and the Cycle is more visible. First, we will examine the Cypria. In short, the Cypria, as the largely believed beginning of the Cycle, is where Zeus, along with Themis, plans the Trojan War (Nagy 1-2). This work is believed by Richard Lattimore to have lasted for eleven elaborative books (26). Of course, as is the case with all parts of the Cycle, with the exception of the Iliad, Proclus’ summary does not elaborate enough to show evidence of all books. It is, in fact, a summary. Thus, the summary of the Cypria bears witness to the infamous judgment of the goddesses, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, by Paris. The judgment takes place on Mount Ida, and, therefore, sets everything on its destined course with Paris taking Helen as his promised prize for
judging in favor of Aphrodite. As a result, Menelaos gathers his men and they set sail for Troy to fight the war that would not subside until ten years later. During the action of this part of the Cycle, Achilles receives his armor and begins to fight through various battles. As a ransom, he receives Briseis as his war prize. As end of the Cypria approaches, Zeus makes plans to remove Achilles from the Achaean alliance, along with various others who were pitted against the Trojans. Thus, “the Iliad follows the Cypria” and the audience plays witness to Achilles continuously disengaging and re-engaging in battle (Nagy 2). The Iliad, as we know of it today, is most widely attributed to Homer. Who or what Homer will be a matter under discussion in the segment that follows the summary of the Cycle. In continuing our summary of the Cycle, the Iliad, in following the Cypria, covers the remainder of the rising action in Trojan War. More importantly, it provides the climax of the War with many heated and gruesome battles. The War spans over a timeframe of ten years and the Iliad for 24 books (Lattimore). As a result, one may reason that the Iliad is of the most consequence to the Cycle. However, if not for the “lesser” books of the Cycle, the Iliad would appear as if it were out of context from any other existing work of literature, aside from the Odyssey, which comes into being approximately sixteen books after the Iliad, depending on the scholar and the translation. Continuing in our summary, during the course of action in the Iliad Hektor is murdered by Achilles, because of Hektor killing Patro’klos. Countless other lives, that often go unmentioned, are taken as well. After Achilles agrees to return Hektor’s body to his father Priam, Book 24 ends, and, as a result, the Iliad concludes with the ceremony and burial of Hektor, by his people (Lattimore 496). This may seem a suitable ending to such a long and exhausting war. However, on the contrary, there are ‘loose ends’ that continue to hang about in this great epic tradition of Achilles, Paris, Agamemnon, Menelaos, Odysseus, and the list could reach an immeasurable length. Therefore, it is significant to note that the infamous Greek epic does not end with the Iliad. In contrast, it continues for an infinite length of performance and time. It is generally accepted, and is indicated in the summary by Proclus, as translated by Gregory Nagy, that the Aithiopis trails the Iliad in the sequence of the Cycle (2). This work of the Cycle is believed by Nagy, and Lattimore, to have been five books in length (Nagy 2) (Lattimore 26). Proclus’ summary of the Aithiopis begins with the coming of the Amazons and concludes with Odysseus and Aias’ feuding over the armor that belongs to Achilles, after his death at the hand of Paris and his body being taken away by Thetis (3). Richmond Lattimore, in contrast to Proclus and, in affect, Nagy, notes the suicide of Aias, presumably over the loss of Achilles’ armor (26). As the summary of the Cycle continues on, it is important to draw attention to such discrepancies, as in the example of the conclusion of the Aithiopis. As will be noted later in the discussion, variations of the Cycle persist and grow more frequent as the tradition continues. Nevertheless, the Little Iliad is consistently agreed upon as the work that follows the Aithiopis. In these four very condensed books, Proclus has the judgment for the armor of Achilles. (This is case in point to the continuous debate of the action in each part of the Cycle). “…Odysseus wins by the machinations of Athena, but Aias goes mad and defiles the herds of the Achaeans and kills himself” (3). “After winning the armor, “Odysseus goes on an ambush and captures Helenos and, because of Helenos’ prophecy about the city’s conquest, Diomedes fetches Philoktetes from Lemnos” (3). The Little Iliad closes with the wooden horse, secretly inhibited by Achaeans, being accepted into the walls of Troy and the Trojans feast, assuming they had defeated the Achaeans(4).
In the Ilioupersis, which originally consisted of two books, the Trojans grow suspicious of the horse and, therefore, begin to debate on a course of action to rid themselves of the horse. One group’s opinion wins out and the Trojans dedicate the horse to Athena, considering it a gift or hieros (4). In result of their decision, and in honoring Athena, the Trojans feast “as if they had been released from the war” (4). Then, as is well known and accepted, begins the invasion of the city of Troy by the Achaeans and, shortly thereafter, the fall of Troy with King Priam being slain by Neoptolemos, son of Achilles (4). According, again, to Nagy’s translation, the Ilioupersis ends with the Achaeans sailing off “while Athena plots destruction for them on the seas” (4). The final five books before the beginning of the Odyssey, often called the Nostoi, or The Returns by Lattimore, sees the homecoming, and death, of a few Achaeans (5) (Lattimore 26). Phoenix dies along the way home and Agamemnon is murdered by Clytemnestra and Aigisthos (5). Among those that return safely are Menelaos and Neoptolemos, who is with Peleus as the Nostoi concludes (5). At this point in the Cycle, Odysseus is still on his journey home, a journey that will take him another ten years. This ten-year expedition is the obvious premise for the Odyssey, which, like the Iliad, is commonly attributed to the Homeric tradition. Proclus’ summary, in the translation of Nagy, ends with the Nostoi. However, Lattimore and others continue the Cycle with the Odyssey and the Telegony, which lasts until Odysseus’ death (26). Although the Odyssey is a widely accepted Homeric work, it is interesting to note that Proclus’ summary mentions the Iliad but not the Odyssey. So, why is there no mention of the Odyssey and the Telegony in Proclus’ summary? Odysseus is a major character and a ‘loose end’ that warrants attention and a conclusion. Perhaps Proclus’ assumed that the Odyssey and the Telegony were popular enough go without mentioning in the Cycle. Nevertheless, this point brings to surface questions that have continued for centuries surrounding Homeric and Non-Homeric texts, particularly the Cycle (Nagy). “Independent testimonies often indicate that the poems of the Cycle once covered more textual territory than Proclus provides” (Burgess 133). Therefore, it is possible that the editors of the Cycle have synthetically imposed the divisions that exist between the works (Burgess 135). Yet, verse beginnings and endings that arose from the exigencies of rhapsodic performance may have led directly to later textual divisions, just as it is sometimes supposed that performance led to the Homeric book divisions (Knight 27). For example, the division between the Aethiopis and the Little Iliad indicated by Proclus is odd; one poem ends with dispute arising over Achilles' arms and the next begins with the judgment on them. “The early, independent manifestations of these poems would have not have had such abrupt starts and stops, but rhapsodes performing these portions of each poem together may well have effected such a transition” (Burgess 137). “Reduplication of material exists at some divisions in the Proclus summary” (Burgess 138). The Little Iliad ends with the Trojans holding a victory feast after having hauled the wooden horse into the city, whereas the Ilioupersis begins with this same victory feast. Then, the Ilioupersis ends with the Greeks sailing off from Troy, whereas the Nosti begins with the Greeks still there (Nagy 4-5). Moreover, the Telegony seems to overlap with the Odyssey: the Cyclic poem opens with the burial of the suitors, though a burial of the suitors occurs in book 24 of the Homeric epic (Lattimore 26).
HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF THE CYCLE The questions’ surrounding inconsistencies or discrepancies in the Cycle leads our discussion into the history and origin of the Cycle. When and how did it come to be? Were the Iliad or the Odyssey, which are largely considered Homeric texts, forerunners to the epic and oral traditions? Alternatively, were the other works of the Cycle, known and unknown, the cause for the creation of the Homeric texts? (Nagy, Burgess, Kirk, Knight). As Gregory Nagy frequently presents possible educated solutions to the questions that have been presented in this section, he, among others, seems to be a logical choice for consultation in almost areas under question. However, we will first discuss the very basis and origin of the Cycle by using the research of W.F. Jackson Knight and his contemporary Jonathan S. Burgess. Knight maintained in his 1968 publishing Many-Minded Homer that: “the Cyclic epic of about 800 to about 550 B.C. is lost but for short fragments” (27). He, like many others of his time was certain that the Homeric texts preceded the other remnants of the Cycle, and was most certain that there was a superior man and poet named Homer. Conversely, we recognize today that only some of Knight’s views have remained accurate. Much has changed in the study of the Cycle and Homer since 1968. While Burgess, along with most oral and epic tradition scholars, affirms that the poems of the Cycle are lost, he says, “what we know about them from ancient evidence is extremely important for our understanding of myth about the Trojan War” (1). Therefore, while it may be argued that the Iliad and the Odyssey came before the Cycle, the argument of Homeric texts as more important pieces than Non-Homeric texts no longer appears to be as common a school of thought as it was in the mid- Twentieth century. In fact, Burgess goes on to argue, that “if the tradition of the Trojan War were a tree, initially the Iliad and Odyssey would have been a couple of small branches, whereas the Cycle poems would be somewhere in the trunk” (1). I will digress for a moment and visit the questions of when and how the Cycle came to be. While there are no definite answers to the time in which the Cycle came into existence, many scholars, such as the ones mentioned above, have made educated assumptions of the time and the manner in which each work of the Cycle came into existence. The Cypria is believed by some to have been written in the time of Homer, or in a time unknown, most likely by Homer (Knight 22), or by Stasinos of Cyprus or Hegesias (Lattimore 26). The Iliad, of course as a largely accepted Homeric text, is believed to have been written or set down by a collaboration of poets, although some still believe Homer to be a man, ‘blind poet’, and the mastermind of Greek epic. The time of the Iliad’s origin is, for the most part, in question (Nagy). Surprisingly, the Aithiopis has a highly agreed upon origin date and “author”. Richmond Lattimore names the author as Arkintinos of Miletos during the time of 744-776 B.C. The Illioupersis is believed to have the same original author and date as the Aithiopis. The Little Iliad, on the other hand, conflicts in it’s origin in reference to time, but is believed to have been the work of Lesches of Lesbos (Lattimore). In Proclus’ summary, Nagy attributes the Nostoi to Agias of Trozen but does not give a time of origin (5). In addition, while the Odyssey is believed to have had the same source of time and authorship as the Iliad, the Telegony is believed by Lattimore to have come into existence in 568 B.C. from a Eugammon of Kyrene (26). It is significant to note that, while most of the works of the Cycle are believed to have had varying “writers”, though fragmented, they all work together to tell a similar story of the events leading up to the Trojan War, the War, and the homecoming of its survivors. Knight believed the
non-Homeric parts of the Cycle were “composed in order to give a complete if artificial story, rather than created in service to a single poetic vision of the condition of man” (28). However, Knight came from a different time and school of thought than Nagy and Burgess. Moreover, I have already established that Burgess believes the Cycle is to be valued more for its “sequence” than its “poetic worth” (Burgess 16) (Blair 2). Yet, one should not that, even in its entirety, the Epic Cycle gives a discontinuous account of the mythological past. “There are gaps between its main Theogonic, Theban, and Trojan sections, and many sub-cycles that could have potentially been included, (say, the deeds of Heracles) have been omitted. In this respect, the Epic Cycle may reflect another strategy of presentation: discontinuous performance” (Kirk, 161). However, even though most now tend to disagree with Knight’s school of thought that the Cycle was created simply to complete the Homeric epics, Bryan Hainsworth places the somewhat more vexing question of which work preceded the other, in perspective. He maintains that, “nothing of this is beyond dispute, but the last point, that the cyclic poems existing in classical times were composed in the shadow of the Homeric epics, has too many, from ancient times onward, to be among the least disputable” (1). Therefore, while it is almost impossible to argue that the Cycle preceded the Homeric epics in time of origin, based on the concrete evidence already provided; it is feasible to argue that the non-Homeric works of the Cycle are just as significant to the scheme of the oral epic and written epic traditions as the Homeric epics (Burgess, Nagy, Beye). Nevertheless, as Nagy addresses in his book, Homeric Questions, “if the poetry of the Cycle were fully attested, it is quite possible that we would conclude that the Iliad and the Odyssey are indeed artistically superior” (22). However, as it continues to be now, with the Cycle remaining quite fragmented, Nagy maintains that, “the attribution of their preeminence [to the Cycle], however to artistic superiority over other epics is merely an assumption” (22). HOMERIC TRADITION IN THE SCHEME OF EPIC INSTITUTIONS The debate over the supremacy of the Homeric tradition over the Non-Homeric, once again, brings to surface the matters surrounding the creation of these ancient epics. Were the Homeric and non-Homeric epics entirely of an oral tradition? Alternatively, are the epics a product of many written texts? Furthermore, was Homer a man or a collaboration of many oral bards or writers? Lastly, what is the span of the Homeric tradition’s influence? While the questions posed in this segment of my paper may seem well established to Homeric and non-Homeric scholars alike, such queries continue to be members of the great speculation surrounding such studies, as they are unresolved (Lang). Thus, the exploration of such wonderments goes on and we find ourselves walking through the pages of identifiable Homeric texts and highly assumingly non-Homeric texts in search of answers to our quandaries. In reference to the Cycle, such inquiries mean a great deal, as their works are significant to the Homeric tradition. Nevertheless, because of the difference in their style and voice, a firm decision as to whether or not the Cycle belongs in the Homeric tradition has yet to be established. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the Cycle is of a non-Homeric tradition, it would still be in epic relation to the Homeric works because of the oral and ancient written traditions (Burgess 136-139). During the Archaic Age, little was known of Homer and “his” setting down of the oral tradition into the Homeric epics, as we know of them today. In addition, many soothsayers were reciting similar tales of the Trojan War. Hence, acknowledging that bards of the same oral tradition went about singing similar tales gives less credit to the idea of Homer as single poet. No
one person could be given credit for such a tradition since a plethora of bards went about reciting similar tales (Burgess 136-139). In fact, Hainsworth concludes that the very “language and diction of Homer” alludes to the belief that the Trojan War epics were composed over a long period of time and are the patchwork, if you will, of many bards singing the tales in “episodes” (1). However, Burgess maintains that these epics of tradition could not be an entire product of oral tradition and recitation (4). If so, who would be in charge of accurately passing down such a tradition? Such a quandary would be impossible to answer without consulting the extensive research and works of Milman Parry and Albert Lord [Homer’s Typical Scenes: Homeric Theme and Cognitive Script]. Parry and Lord were instrumental in establishing the idea of “typical scenes” in Homer and the epic tradition. Their research concludes that the tradition of Homer was a combination of singers and written texts. “Typical scenes” tend to indicate that there existed a rhapsodic formula for the recitation of these epics. According to Parry, a typical scene is a recurrent sequence, which is narrated “with many of the same details and many of the same words” (404). These typical scenes tend to involve action sequences such as funeral rites, contests, journeys, harnessing horses, dressing, visits, and meals. In addition, various speech acts, including rebukes, challenges, prayers, exhortations, and boasts, although they were not taken into consideration by Parry and Lord, are typical Homeric scenes (404). It is largely because of recurrent ideas or events in Homeric works that the suggestion of stereotypical, regimented scenes has been made. “Themes are the building blocks of narrative: when strung together, they become the story (Lord 95-96). However, Parry and Lord appeared to believe that these performances were holistically oral. While this may not be the case, their theories tend to sway the speculation of their ideas toward the oral tradition. Conversely, Nagy, while he highly pays tribute to the work of Parry and Lord and acknowledges the previous existence of rhapsodic singers, often disagrees with the idea of a formula and holistically oral composition (22). As Nagy upholds: “Such a requirement of oral poetry is often assumed, without justification, by both proponents and opponents of the idea that Homeric poetry is based on oral poetry. I disagree. To assume that whatever is being meant in Homeric poetry is determined by such formal considerations as formula or meter (as when experts say that the formula or meter made the poet say this or that) is to misunderstand the relationship of form and content in oral poetics.” (22). Furthermore, in accepting the Homeric, and non-Homeric, tradition as a compilation of written texts, we accept Homer as a collective voice over time, not a single poet. This matter is still, however, up for some debate, as Charles Rowan Beye once observed, “In modern times the elements of pre-historic Greece have begun to come to light, but Homer grows no more familiar. ‘He’ remains “Homer”, “the poet or poets of the Iliad and Odyssey, “the bard,” almost totally anonymous because he so rarely reveals himself in his epics” (75-76). Nevertheless, while most scholars have all but ruled out Homer as an actual author, the belief in a collective setting down of the Tradition still exists; which would mean that the entire epic tradition was not holistically oral nor was it entirely a written text in a time when most could
not write (Burgess 12-13). In fact, I would like to present the idea that the Tradition may have been partly pictorial in origination. This would serve to explain why there exists so much pottery and art surrounding the epics with definite ages crossed from one set of works to another. In adding to the mysteries surrounding the Cycle and the Tradition of the Trojan War, there is a definite contrast of views from the Bronze Age to the Archaic Age, and even into the present (Kirk 106). With this in mind, one may ask, what is to come in the study of such an intrinsic and mystifying tradition? Nagy and Burgess seem to have a monopoly on the contemporary schools of thought in the areas of the Homeric traditions and the Epic Cycle. Still, what is the intrinsic value of such extensive studies of the ancient traditions? I would like to suggest that the answer(s) to this particular question is all around us. Even as we live and breathe in the age of postmodern thought and endless technology, the influence of the Greeks and their Tradition surrounds us all. It exists in our culture through architecture, various medias, including music and movies, and this could go on. The basis of our cultural philosophies and psychology resides within this great Tradition. The influence of the Greeks and their institutions surround us all. A CONCLUSION In closing, it is significant to note that the influence of the Greeks does not solely reside in the accepted Homeric works. Although, as previously stated, the Homeric epics are widely thought of as being superior, both the Homeric works and the Epic Cycle are believed by experts to be invaluable in the continuing study of the ancient Tradition. In fact, as Burgess notes in the final chapter of his book, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer & the Epic Cycle, “the Homeric epics and the poems of the Epic Cycle stem from a common heritage of story and myth’. Yet, they are not viewed as dependent upon the Homeric works as they do not have “any direct relationship to one another” (154-155). Instead, the Epic Cycle and the Homeric works are valued, in part, because of the tradition that they provide to us. The Iliad and the Odyssey will most likely continue to be viewed in the eyes of scholars and teachers as the “superior” texts. Yet, the Epic Cycle owes little to the Homeric tradition because they co-exist. Even with the Homeric works in place, the Epic Cycle remains “fragmented” (Burgess 174). Therefore, even though the Homeric epics may have existed before the Epic Cycle, the Cycle itself was not set down for completing the Iliad and Odyssey. There are too many differences between these works to make this assumption. However, what is known is that “the poems of the Cycle cannot be appreciated because they are lost” (Burgess 175). In contrast, what is not lost is the insight that the poems of the Epic Cycle bring to the ancient myth of the Trojan War.…”Through fragments, testmonia, and summaries they can be valued as a window into ancient myth about the Trojan War” (Burgess 175). Ashley Blair
Bibliography of Cited and Consulted Works
Beye, Charles Rowan. The ILIAD, the ODYSSEY, and the Epic Tradition. Macmillan & Co. LTD, London. 1966 & 1968. Burgess, Jonathan S. The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer & the Epic Cycle. The John Hopkins University Press, Canada. 2001. Hainsworth, Bryan. The Tradition of the Trojan War (Book). Academic Search Premier, Winter 2002/2003. Vol. 72, Issue 1. 1-2. Kirk, G.S. Homer and the Oral Tradition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, London. 1976. Knight, W.F. Jackson. Many-Minded Homer. Barnes & Noble, Inc. New York, N. Y. 1968. Lang, Andrew. Homer and the Epic. AMS Press, INC., New York, N.Y. 1893, 1970. Lattimore, Richmond. Homer. The Iliad of Homer. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. London. 1951, 1961. Parry, Milman & Albert Lord. “Homer’s Typical Scenes: Homeric Theme and Cognitive Script”, 1971. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1-69. Nagy, Gregory. Homeric Questions. The University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas. 1996, 2005.
The Posthuman Identity: Theorizing the Body and Consciousness in the Late Postmodern Age
In the beginning, there was the word of God alone that lived; there was logos – the Word of life – that patiently held its silence over the slumbering abyss until this void could no longer stand the vast, empty silence of its own darkness. And then the silence broke, the Word called out across the great emptiness; like thunder it spoke, like lightning it heated the void with the warmth of its breath, then exhaled into all forms the rhythm, the movement, the spirit of life. And God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness….1” From the dust of the earth “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.2” And “Amen,” said the man as he admired the stunning form and enchanting beauty of his Heaven-crafted flesh. And so it is that for nearly two millennia, the Western world has devoted itself to the Judeo-Christian belief that God created human beings in his own image, not only physically, but also perhaps even mentally or spiritually as well. In the Word, the West found the eternal monument, the heavenly testament to the integrity of the human being that justified humankind’s mortal image as an earth-bound reflection of God – a body respected and revered as an image of the divine, a consciousness treasured as the breath of the divine soul; and thus, “man” was honored as an earth-bound reflection hoping to be united in the end with its celestial caster. But, what happens to this reflection of God when the mirror begins to become sullied, tainted, obscured? Upon the weary, withering back of Genesis we have placed the onerous weight of “man,” and it appears in the early 21st century, that this is a burden that neither Genesis nor God can bear any longer. The late postmodern age3 has witnessed the rise of technological discourses4 that have fronted an all-out assault upon the human body and consciousness as people have traditionally come to understand these two very important aspects of their individual, as well as collective, forms of identity. The increasing prevalence of the posthuman discourses of biotechnology, bionic science, and electronic communications – which as I would argue are only in their incipient stages – have invaded both the body itself and human structural perception (both self and external conscious awareness), systematically erasing thousands of years of knowledge human beings have formed about themselves and also instituting a new era in understanding the human body and mind. No longer do the humanist apologies for the integrity of the body, consciousness, and human nature hold weight, which has caused several poststructuralists to declare boldly the “death of man.5” In order to keep such disquieting thought at bay, Neil 1
Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:27 3 I do not mean to suggest here that the postmodern era of technology and thought is necessarily coming to an end (although some scholars and theorists have suggested such). Rather, I simply use the adjective “late” to denote not only the last decade or so, along with the present, but also to denote the coming decade as well. 4 My use of the term “discourse” means more than a “science” or a “practice.” I mean to suggest also that “discourse” is both a system of power (in this case, a technologically defined and driven one) that controls or reshapes humanity’s own perception and knowledge of itself, as well as the truth statements, claims, or beliefs about ourselves that are negotiated and structured through these technologies also. As such, these discourses define how humans identify themselves collectively. The definition I give here is influenced by the work of Michel Foucault. 5 This is an antihumanist or constructivist (I use this term in place of anti-essentialism) slogan, most notably championed by Foucault in his Order of Things, which holds that the concept of “man” as universal and endowed 2
Badmington has argued for the need of humanism in the 21st century to adapt to contemporary trends in technology, appropriating a form of thought that can situate new discourse within a traditional understanding and affirmation of the human subject. He argues against posthuman apocalyptic accounts of the death of man stating, “If technology has truly sped ‘us’ outside and beyond the space of humanism, why is ‘Man’ still at ‘our’ side? If ‘Man’ is present at ‘his’ own funeral, how can ‘he’ possibly be dead? What looks on lives on” (13). However, in the age of posthuman discourses, when “Man” assumes the role of God in creating an identical image of himself in the form of a clone, when “Man” substitutes a flawed organ for a perfected machine within his own body, when “Man” can no longer distance himself from the machine or even distinguish himself from it, and when “Man” assumes various disembodied forms of identity through the vast regions of cyberspace, I think that, in response to Badmington, it is more appropriate to ask, “Who or what is living and looking on at the ‘death of man’?” In this paper, I will examine various positions on the human body, as well as human consciousness, in the wake of the prevalence of late postmodern technological discourses, and I will explore how material and mental interaction may possibly take shape in the posthuman world. I will also attempt to theorize what implications the interaction of posthuman discourses with the human body and mind possesses in determining possible modes of human identity in the future, an interaction that may erase stable conceptions of the “human” altogether. Posthumanism,6 or what Eugene Thacker deems as “extropianism” in his study of this ideology, has already attempted to address the need for humanism to readapt its traditional conceptualization of human identification to current technological innovations and trends. Extropianism is a new, progressive form of humanism that still champions many of the same values as Enlightenment humanism, such as self-awareness and reflection, the belief in technological progress and optimism, as well as the value of rational thought and reason (Thacker 75). Extropianism seeks to harmoniously integrate the “human” with the “posthuman” in order to redefine (or continually discover) what exactly it means to be a human being, while at the same time still protecting the integrity of the human body. The problem then persists, however, of how exactly we are to reconcile a potentially dehumanizing posthuman world with the belief in the integrity of the “human.” To prevent the horrific potential of future dehumanization posed by the threat of “technological determinism” upon the body, Thacker believes that posthuman discourses can be neutralized into forms that seek to progressively enhance the human body while maintaining respect for its natural biology. “Extropianism necessitates an ontological separation,” he states, “between human and machine. It needs this segregation in order to guarantee the agency of human subjects in determining their own future…” (77). Contrary to professing an apocalyptic encounter with the posthuman, extropianist thought is highly optimistic of humankind’s ability to retain its own selfdetermination. Extropianism sees the future as a promising posthumanist utopia, where novel advances in research and technologies from genetic and cellular engineering to organ and tissue regeneration, as well as stem cell research, free the body from its previous mortal constraints – with natural rights is a modern invention, formed by the social and human sciences (psychology, anthropology, sociology, medicine, etc.). It denies that there is a universal, permanent human nature that can be used by humanists or essentialists to defend a human integrity or natural “essence.” 6 Posthumanism does not represent the belief that humans are no longer “human.” Rather, it is a collection of contemporary thought that views human beings as adaptable to new forms of technology that, consequently, seem to have redefined what it means to be “human.” Posthumanism is not to be confused with other trends in posthuman thought that do indeed see humans as losing their human essence as the bionic, biotech, and ecomm discourses rapidly advance.
such as disease, deformity, and dilapidation – enabling a higher standard of human life than heretofore feasibly imaginable. Extropianism’s encounter with the human body, however, is one that completely realigns traditional perceptions of corporeality and material presence. Thacker’s fundamental argument about posthumanism is that it doesn’t necessarily discard materiality or the human body, but that it equates the body with information, interpreting materiality in terms of a pattern or code of useful information available for technological processing (86). Thacker’s extropianist thought posits the human body and somatic form of identity as genetic code, as “information” for the biotech discourse, which is to act solely in the service of the body’s own technology-driven evolution. As such, the body then becomes liberated from previous material constrictions with discourse at its service to address all of its various needs. “The logic of informatic essentialism is…,” writes Thacker unreservedly, “the emancipation of the biological body through the technical potential of informatics” (87). By being able to harness the medical potential of the human genome, extropianism claims that humans can begin to take control of their own modes of materiality. The extropianist faith is that posthuman discourses, such as biotech, now serve the natural human body in reconstituting its natural, biological state whenever it comes under attack from the “real” agents of dehumanization in disease, deformation, warfare, and aging. In his enthusiastic optimism of posthumanism’s progressive restructuring of biological corporeality, Thacker regards posthuman materiality as “A body that, as information, can be technically manipulated, controlled, and monitored through information technologies” (89). Although the body may lose its traditional mode of materiality, no need to worry claims Thacker when he states, “By harnessing biological…processes and directing them toward novel therapeutic ends…nature remains natural, the biological remains biological” (93). This rationale seems hardly feasible, however, and the human body and identity as “informatic essentialism,” as reduced genetic code for technological manipulation, seems highly subversive to a theory of natural human advancement and evolution still encompassed within the parameters of human essentialism – a fundamental strain of humanist thought. The body genetic as an experimental station for the biotech discourse seems potentially dehumanizing and alienating, and extropianism’s problematic relationship with somatic identity seems to be an ambivalent one at best, a relationship that seeks, ironically, to affirm materiality by denying the traditional human body and claiming its liberation from traditional constraints. Consequently, this is a complex and perplexing view of the body that has not held well with the traditional conventions of contemporary humanist thought. The traditional humanist position is one that respects the integrity of the natural state of the human body – unaffected and unadorned by the “aid” of discourse – and one that professes “human nature” as the universal basis of a consummated view of the human being. Bart Simon adeptly summarizes humanist fears regarding the perceived threat of the posthuman world: If unchecked…progress threatens to alter the conditions of our common humanity with the prospect of terrible social costs…genetic technologies will alter the material and biological basis of the natural human equality that serves as the basis of political equality and human rights” (1). If posthuman discourses are not kept in check, the prevailing fear is that human nature itself could possibly face annihilation from the formidable opponent of a renegade science working against traditional human corporeality. One of the thinkers on the front lines of this battle is the humanist theorist, Francis Fukuyama. Like extropianists, Fukuyama also claims that true human identity is genetic, and not socially determined as the antihumanists and social constructivists
hold.7 However, unlike his extropian counterparts, Fukuyama believes that the biological body must be protected from any attempts by discourse at “self-modification,” and that highly advanced human nature must also be spared from any possible assaults upon its genetic composition that biotech posits (Fukuyama 172). Fukuyama makes it explicitly clear in his book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution that he, as well as other thinkers on the traditional humanist side of the posthuman equation, wants to protect the integrity of the natural, biologically determined body, along with human nature itself as humans have traditionally understood this concept. While Fukuyama’s conventional stance on materiality is threatened, and possibly, on the verge of vanishing further into the posthuman age, the dehumanizing potential of a posthuman form of corporeality seems alienating to the natural, biologically conceptualized image of humans. Perhaps, as Bart Simon – a contemporary posthuman theorist – argues in his essay, an approach needs to be systemized that will not only realize the potential for posthuman technologies in benefiting humanity, but also, will synchronously respect both the integrity of the human body and what it means to be “human.” Although extropianism claims to have met this need, perhaps another form of negotiation can be reached between the body and machine, between human and biotech; an approach that doesn’t necessarily view materiality as the playground of science (always on the threat of going awry in the postmodern era), and yet harmonizes traditional views of the human body with contemporary modes of thought and technology as well. If it is difficult and befuddling to adequately account for an authentic form of biological materiality in the posthuman world as either a stable or a progressive somatic human identity, then theorizing an authentic human consciousness and its interaction with the material body in this same world is no less problematic. In his study of consciousness and mental perception in the posthuman world, William Haney asks “Does the brain’s neural activity give rise to consciousness, and is consciousness an epiphenomenon of the brain or an autonomous entity?” (88). This question was not even adequately answered before the arrival of posthuman discourses, making the mind/body dual(ity) in the late postmodern era a more exciting and raucous brawl then ever before. If consciousness is, indeed, autonomous, then it would seem that technology would be incapable of ever truly reproducing an exact replica of human essentialism in a machine or computer; however, if consciousness is purely a function of the body, then perhaps discourse would be capable of reproducing a seemingly authentic form of human consciousness. To account for this dilemma, Haney promotes what he calls “nonintentional pure consciousness” as the subtlest form of human nature itself. In defining this concept, Haney cites Robert Forman as stating: “It is a reflexive or self-referential form of knowing. I know my consciousness and I know that I am and have been conscious simply because I am it” (169). In substantiating his views about human nature, Haney cites Forman even further: “This cognitive stasis, as a unity of knower, known and process of knowing, helps to define what it means to be human” (169). Haney thus believes in the dignity and integrity of human consciousness as embedded within its self-reflexive form of perception, that is, in the distinctly unique human ability to be aware of and to identify with its own consciousness and thinking. Haney claims that non-intentional pure consciousness is a form of knowing and awareness well beyond the need of any such factors as language and external communication, as well as cognitive interpretation of these, which so often negotiate the intentional thinking and 7
For a brief, yet detailed and concise, analysis of the antagonistic schools of thought of humanism/essentialism vs. antihumanism/contructionism, consult Ward’s Postmodernism, pgs. 135-37.
perceiving form of consciousness. In other words, non-intentional pure consciousness is a unity of the process of knowing with “knowing” or self-awareness itself as directly manifested by the thinking human subject without the need for external mediation, unlike intentional consciousness, which is the process of knowing as dictated both through factors outside of consciousness itself, such as language and materiality, as well as the cognitive perception of materiality also. As such, Haney firmly believes, along with such thinkers as Hubert Dreyfus,8 that neither computers nor machines (artificial intelligence) will ever be capable of duplicating an exact replica of human conscious identity, simply because this self-reflexive form of nonintentional consciousness would be unavailable to them, technology incapable of ever producing such a form of conscious self-reflection through a systematic collection of codified mathematical thought. He uses the classic Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein to demonstrate his point: As an archetypal cyborg, the monster is an outsider to pure consciousness, the one feature indispensable for connectedness…As a composite body, Victor’s monster identifies with the content of its awareness [intentional consciousness]9 and shows little tendency to transcend the material body and the thought of its condition. (87172) Haney seems to argue here for a strict form of authentic conscious identity – that being involved within a Cartesian form of pure intellect or a disembodied thinking mind. Although he views posthuman technologies as essentially impotent in ever reproducing an authentic conscious experience and identity within a computer or machine, Haney expresses understandable fears about the threat of discourse to the conscious experience itself of human beings. “If the neurophysiological basis of human nature is radically modified through bionic technology,” he warns, “we may lose the ability to sustain an experience of self-awareness beyond our socially constructed identity” (177). In other words, the human/machine symbiosis of the posthuman era could signify a potential for the alteration of non-intentional pure consciousness (possibly even preventing it), leaving only the intentional, unstable, and corporeally constructed conscious identity. With the arrival of posthuman discourses that have sought to substitute natural processes of biology with the machine in an attempt to strengthen the human body, and with the attempts by AI to reproduce subjective human experience through replicated consciousness, technology itself can now be viewed as trying to mediate biological determinism for both the body and the mind. In cyberspace, the posthuman relationship of body, consciousness, and identity, as negotiated through technology, is taken to the outer limits – it’s taken to a veritable twilight zone. “Cybernetic technologies,” states Glenn Ward, “suggest novel ways of getting out of social (and perhaps even biological) limitations on identity by creating new, boundary-blurring images of self” (128). Cyberspace, more than an entity where worldwide communication rapidly takes place beyond any previous measures known to humans, reaches the zenith of the ecomm discourse in its role as the new age identity marketplace. With the rise of Multi-User Domains, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and chat rooms, virtual communities that enable users to “purchase” various personae and “shop” various aspects of the so-called “self10” have replaced 8
Dreyfus is a professor of philosophy at UC-Berkeley. His scholarship has been key in leading a skeptical, united front against the field of artificial intelligence (AI). 9 Mine. 10 Several postmodern theorists have argued against the concept of the “self.” Such thinkers as Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, and Guattari have viewed the self as a destabilized center, signifying no unified form of reality as the basis for subjective experience.
conventional means of individual identification. In cyberspace, textual description takes the place of human materiality as people gain a chance at expressing unexplored modes of personal identification through the anonymity of screen life (Turkle 643). Annette Burfoot cites the work of Katherine Hayles in theorizing changes in human identity brought about by material and technological interchange. Burfoot explains Hayles’s notion of identity in cyberspace by describing the latter’s conception of “two bodies,” one being the “enacted body” that is made of flesh, and the other being the “represented body” that is conceptualized through verbal, textual, and semiotic markers (59). The “enacted body,” as I understand it and adopt the phrase, represents identity as determined through both the perception of finite space and material presence. I would argue also that the “represented body,” the cyberbody, on the other hand, suggests a disembodied human identity as determined by the perception of infinite space upon the Web. Within the “represented body” is the defiance of materiality and millennia of human experience – here is the end of corporeality through a global network of thinking Cartesian minds. Cyberspace subjects a new form of human identity that denies material presence and affirms the assimilation of the human being into various flitting and unstable modes of conscious identity– a cyberconsciousness. As Ward states about human interaction with computer technology, “It often involves an escape from the limitations, vulnerabilities and clumsiness of the physical body…and into a purer, cybernetic kind of consciousness” (127). This cyberconsciousness tells us that the availability of identities within the identity marketplace of cyberspace is infinite and no longer confined by materiality. While seeming to liberate people from the social constraints of their personal and material forms of identity by allowing them to assume whatever roles or identities they may desire to take, the virtual reality of cyberspace has come under fire. Some scholars have been skeptical of its ability to recreate a truly authentic form of the material human experience while paradoxically seeking to undermine material presence at the same time. Hayles, in her essay entitled “Interrogating the Posthuman Body,” explores various strains of thought concerning the relationship of corporeality and technology. She cites the credo of one skeptical school of thought that “Virtual reality…only creates the ‘illusion of control over reality…’” (757). Thus, consciousness as dictated through cyberspace, much like that as dictated through the previous aspects of computer technology and science as mentioned above in regards to Haney, can be viewed, from this perspective at least, as incapable of achieving through the vicarious screen life of cybertext and virtual reality an authentic representation of human consciousness – a consciousness that is entrenched, as it seems, in material presence for now; but it is impossible to determine what new technologies and advances posthuman discourses will make in the coming decades that may aid in turning this perspective flat on its head. The bionic, biotech, and ecomm discourses have now drastically begun to alter humanity’s interaction with its own identity, and it certainly seems that these technologies will only continue to increasingly determine what humans know, or are even capable of knowing, about themselves in the future, as well as how they perceive themselves in relation to the world around them. These discourses will determine the future of the human body and human consciousness whether we like it or not; our only mission will perhaps be to ensure a place for the “human” to retain a say in the determination of its own identity. Taking a constructivist approach to the human being, one that has been vehemently attacked at times by the works of some of those cited in this paper, I would argue that, in the posthuman era, humanity has entered a new phase of identification, where not only social factors and environment, as well as humans
themselves, determine their identity, but where technological constructionism becomes a powerful mediator of human subjective experience and identification. In the posthuman, identity becomes a technological construct as determined through such technologies as genetic engineering and computer science, while at the same time, identity is still personally negotiable as humans can assume various roles and play identity-interchange through cyberspace. While the humanist position has held the technological constructionism of the posthuman at bay thus far, it seems increasingly likely that, along with Genesis, carrying the weight of “man” upon humanism’s back will only sever its vertebrae in the end. Notions of the body, consciousness, and the self are understood only in relative time and place, only in the historical epoch that both natural and social evolution simultaneously encapsulate human experience and knowledge within.11 In attempting to substantiate the claim of a fragmented and destabilized notion of the self and human subject, Turkle relates her encounter with identity as communicated through both language and cyberspace: I used language to create several characters. My textual actions are my actions– my words make things happen. I created selves that were made and transformed by language. And different personae were exploring different aspects of the self. The notion of a decentered identity was concretized by experiences on a computer screen. (646) If textual language can “make things happen” so easily within cyberspace, if disembodied human identity can create the conscious perception of role play and the assimilation of humans into various, fragmented forms of subjective selves through simulated “bodies,” then the “human” as universal is perhaps only a construct of the mind, a mere illusion of language, a fluid and ephemeral substance after all, a fleeting and evanescent shadow drifting hastily back into the smote brethren of fallen stars, forever lost somewhere in the vast, isolating silence and emptiness of the cosmic universe. As we progress deeper and deeper into the posthuman age, defending the integrity of “man,” as well as the human body and consciousness, against posthuman discourses becomes a daunting task. It seems as though we are progressively alienating ourselves from the natural, biological human body. In the posthuman perfection of the (post)human body, I believe that we are in danger of losing the natural body altogether, and as such, traditional notions of human consciousness are also imperiled because of consciousness’ intrinsically interdependent relationship with the physiological processes of the human body. Consequently, this is the same body and consciousness (psyche or soul) that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have viewed as carved by the hand of God in the image of God, giving us some of our most treasured concepts of our own “divinity.” Furthermore, what happens to the traditional body and mind, to the traditional “human,” when the voice of God, the voice of the Word that “created” it, ceases to resonate as loudly as it did once before? Do humans perceive the “human” as their own illusion? The arrival of modernity in the 19th century brought with it not only more efficient and advanced forms of science and technology, but also the increasing alienation of humans from their bodies, as well as the restructuring of their own self-awareness; and consequently, humans were isolated from God even further as though humanity’s status as “earth-bound reflection” did not set the stage for its own isolation enough. In his Order of Things, Foucault states, concerning the “death 11
This is the constructivist view that human nature and identity are comprehended only through the available knowledge of our current stage in evolutionary history – both the natural evolution of the human being as well as the evolution of human societies – meaning that we have no knowledge of a universal, unchanging human nature and identity relevant to all ages and all cultures.
of god,” “Nietzsche rediscovered the point at which man and God belong to one another, at which the death of the second is synonymous with the disappearance of the first…12” (342). If “man” is no longer the material reflection of God upon the universe, if his consciousness is no longer authenticated by the soul of the divine, then where does “he” stand in the posthuman? If humans can be said to possess anything universal and eternal, then perhaps it is only their characteristic of being eternally redefined; and therefore, we might be forced to agree eventually with Foucault that the human subject, as we have understood it in our time, stands on the precipice of a great abyss, that, as he states, “Man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (387).
Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher, proclaimed that modernity was responsible for causing the prevailing trend of a Western disillusion with the concept of “god,” resulting in what he deems in his philosophy as the “death of God.”
Works Cited Badmington, Neil. “Theorizing Posthumanism.” Cultural Critique 53 (2003): 10-27. Burfoot, Annette. “Human Remains: Identity Politics in the Face of Biotechnology.” Cultural Critique 53 (2003): 47-71. Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. A translation of Les Mots et les choses. New York: Vintage, 1994. Fukuyama, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. New York: Farrar, 2002. Haney, William S., II. Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Posthuman. New York: Rodopi, 2006. Hayles, N. Katherine. “Interrogating the Posthuman Body.” Contemporary Literature 38.4 (1997): 755-62. Simon, Bart. “Introduction: Toward a Critique of Posthuman Futures.” Cultural Critique 53 (2003): 1-9. Thacker, Eugene. “Data Made Flesh: Biotechnology and the Discourse of the Posthuman.” Cultural Critique 53 (2003): 72-97. Turkle, Sherry. “Cyberspace and Identity.” Contemporary Sociology 28.6 (1999): 643-48. Ward, Glenn. Postmodernism. Teach Yourself. London: Hodder, 2003.
Further Reading Cook-Degan, Robert. The Gene Wars: Science, Politics, and the Human Genome. New York: Norton, 1994. Dennett, Daniel C. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991. ---. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. Ehrlich, Paul. Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect. Washington: Island Press, 2000. Fukuyama, Francis. The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order. New York: Free Press, 1999. Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Socialist Review 80 (1985). Rpt. in From Modernism to Postmodernism. 2nd ed. Ed. Lawrence Cahoone. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2003. 464-81. Moravec, Hans P. Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1989.
2006-2007 Pfeiffer Review