Blog 4: Kittler, “Dracula’s Legacy” and Sexuality

27 Apr

            Freidrich Kittler’s “Dracula’s Legacy” discusses  how women have been implemented as active participants in the discourse of language and psychoanalysis. “It is not the signified, rather the signifier which one hears” (Kittler 51). In this sense Kittler seems to be approaching the issue of the different ways in which we as subjects receive sound as emanations from the individual signifier, and not as signified objects of “sound.” It is hard to describe sound without also including its origin, and in this case it is professor Lacan who is giving the lecture. Therefore, his words are not mere data, but they are pure forms emanating from him to the subject. This is significant because Kittler suggests that this experience of the signifier was previously unattainable to women.

            Now that women have an equal opportunity to sit in on lectures given by professors such as Lacan, he may address the subjects “ladies and gentlemen” as a socially cohesive group. “What the master speaks off-the-cuff—and that means to and about women—is received only by women” (51). This points to the previous lack of universality amongst the academic environment. Since the implementation of women in the university, and academia, professors now have a direct correlation to them, and what is said “off-the-cuff” by professors will resonate particularly with women, being that they have the proper experience, knowledge, etc. to understand the meaning of these comments. This is contributory to the entire “discourse” in that it creates a cycle of socially cohesive information, it is not entirely directed to, and received, by men alone. As participators, women,  “with their own ears…hear discourses concerning the secrets of their desires. Hearing that even they have a connection to the signifier called phallus (at least in its anatomically miniature form), simply because they are no longer, as they had been for an entire century before fundamentally barred from all academic discourse”(51). The physical aspect of being present in the lecture hall elevated the degree to which women had been severed from the academic environment, establishing a direct link between subject and signifier in such discourses as psychoanalytic studies and subject material of various other sorts.

            “Everything that the Herr professors have told the Herr students about mankind and nature, spirit and alma mater, becomes ridiculous as soon as women are allowed to sit in the lecture hall. To women the master reveals very different things”(51). Kittler exposes the nature of classic academia as being proud of “mankind” and its relation to “nature,” man’s “spirit” and “alma mater” as conventions to be tested by the introduction of women to the academic scene. These elements are rendered “ridiculous” once women “infiltrate” these male dominated institutions. It is as if  women entered a sacred fraternity, which was never meant to happen in the eyes of men, and all the ancient male ideals of life and its secrets were exposed to the denied and suppressed intellect of women.  As women became more included in academic institutions “the discourse of psychoanalysis,” as Kittler states, began to “[run] through two parallel-switched feedback loops, one feminine and one mechanical” (52). As Lacan’s daughter provided a sense of the female perspective on these psychoanalytic discourses, her husband provided the “mechanical:” “a discourse, brought back by the daughter and turned into text by the daughter’s husband, circumvents certain dangers” (52). This circumventing of “certain dangers” seems to be referencing the now important aspect of the ever expanding and necessary elevation of sexual equality, and how psychoanalysis is codependent on input from women as equally as men.  Kittler insists that the “two parallel-switched feedback loops—the word of the daughter and the transcription of the daughter’s husband—create a discourse that never stops inscribing itself” (52). This immortalization of Lacan’s speech is possible because of his own daughter’s recapitulation and subsequent documentation. She, as Mina, acts as the mediator between Lacan’s lecture to the document, which is sent back to the lecturer, and so forth (Moebius Loop). The technology of such sound recording, or any of the mechanical improvements to lesser forms of documentation only solidified the present sense that man and machine seem to be converging: “from now on you are, and to a far greater extent than you can imagine, subjects of gadgets or instruments…which will become elements of your being” (53). Being the subject of the “gadget” itself is flipped upside-down in Stoker’s novel Dracula, where Mina Murray (or Harker) becomes the recording “gadget” herself by organically documenting the movements of Dracula through a telepathic connection. This plays on the idea that in the future much more direct forms of documentation of information will be discovered and improve upon mediation to give a more immediate experience of the “master” or signifier.

            Kittler expands that the “master” or professor “reveals” very different things to women, because they not only hear different things in the discourse of subjects, but also because certain topics are directly addressed to the perspective of women. Kittler claims that “it is therefore not surprising that precisely in place of this feminine myth [Don Juan], a feminine pair of lips [Lacan’s daughter] acts as a tape recorder” (51). Much like his own documentarian, Lacan’s daughter “makes certain that an intact Moebius loop known as text is produced from the ventriloquism of the master” (52). She is his own personal secretary in a sense, much like Mina Harker is to Jonathan in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “Mina Murray, who, with the weapons of a new age:” “weapons” of technology (63). Kittler relates technology as a weapon for women because it diminishes the importance of learning certain male practices of journalism excluded to wome. In Mina’s case, the typewriter documents Jonathan’s journey, and becomes a weapon and elevates her importance in the novel because she is the most reliable source of data. Mina “practices her typing and stenography arduously, in order to do one day “what the lady journalists do” (63). Mina as a journalist, who are known to “defer, re-work, and augment speeches and texts, in whatever form they appear” gives Mina a special power in Stoker’s novel: she mediates information and data, and creates a uniform narrative by which the other characters base their beliefs and actions upon. She is the pivotal character who unites the characters with Dracula himself in a cohesive discourse. Her organizing skill of “steno-typing” relays the larger importance of women as being “proficient in both stenography and typing” which was ultimately responsible for the “House of Commons and Bundestage,” and many other institutions to keep from literally  “fall[ing] apart”(63). Mina’s role as a journalist, steno-typist, and overall mediator of data flow is what allows Stoker’s novel to create any sort of discourse over Dracula and reveals that women played a pivotal role in the revolutionary sweep of mediation and data recording.

-Adam Shelley

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One Response to “Blog 4: Kittler, “Dracula’s Legacy” and Sexuality”

  1. courtneypanther 30 May 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I would like to take a step along the same path of your ideas around the shift in Lacan’s language once women were allowed in the university. You acknowledge that the newly admitted participants are highly conscientious of the male-related comments Lacan makes, and their presence changes the meaning of Lacan’s male-driven work. You suggested that “this is contributory to the entire ‘discourse’ in that it creates a cycle of socially cohesive information, it is not entirely directed to, and received, by men alone.”
    I think it’s worthwhile to recognize how this comment relates to Dracula as a whole. The presence of Dracula in London precedes a male dominated society to be polluted with the Eastern European deviancies that in fact encourage agency in women. The count’s exploitation of Lucy and Mina is not a new freedom for him only; it also distributes a certain amount of power to the females. After Dracula begins to prey on Lucy, she enters into a new form of un-dead womanhood. Lucy becomes more powerful with her newfound freedom to travel around London at night without a chaperone, satiating her hunger on little children that she lures into her web. This may not be a source of power that was initially wanted, but it is a source of power nonetheless. This relates to your comment on Kittler’s statement suggesting that in partaking in the university, women are granted an element of power that they desire: “As participators, women, ‘with their own ears…hear discourses concerning the secrets of their desires.’” Mina is recognizably more powerful than Lucy prior to her encounter with Dracula considering the tasks she pushed herself to acquire in order to be a better wife; however, she too gains advantageous powers that are necessary to the vampire-hunters defeat of Dracula. Post-blood sucking, Mina gained access to the Count’s psyche in understanding where he is physically. The hypnosis allows Mina to be present in what was previously inaccessible territory. This, as you say, permits Mina in a location of knowledge (much like Lacan’s lecture hall) that had been long since out of reach. Whereas Lucy and Mina may not have knowingly wished to become vampires, the power granted was not wasted and used with newly developed motives. I believe you take this point a step further in your quote “As women became more included in academic institutions ‘the discourse of psychoanalysis,’ as Kittler states, began to “[run] through two parallel-switched feedback loops, one feminine and one mechanical” (52) The shift in responsiveness to the university closely resembles the shift Stoker acknowledges in Dracula. Mina and Lucy maintain a certain level of femininity as they enter Dracula’s un-dead realm, Lucy still possesses a softness when she speaks to children and with Arthur, Mina continues to be helpful in the chase without overstepping her “delicacy” as a female. The similarity between women in the university and women’s new position in the workforce represent the evolution of attitudes seen by Kittler and Stoker as one that is influential to how we now approach analysis.

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