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September 07, 2007

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proquest digital dissertations

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Research Term Papersr

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Breanna

Hello,

I just came across your blog for the first time today. "Why is academic writing so boring?" was my search of the hour, and I find this poignantly expressed.

Here is some crap I wrote for my English class, if you're by some miracle bored enough to read it. It seems now to make sense why my essay was so ill-received (the conclusion especially)...

In "Shame: The Emotions and Morality of Violence," Dr. James Gilligan, professor and faculty member of the Harvard School of Medicine, through copious research, believes to have pinpointed the origin of violence: shame. He proposes we treat violence as a psychological “pathogen”, caused by a "contagious disease" rather than heredity (40). Cultural conditions, for instance, "[stimulate] violence toward both men and women" (40).

To test his theory, Gilligan delves straight into the minds of criminals. Finally, after years of case studies on men incarcerated for violence, a pattern appears (simultaneously, the author establishes his ethos). Each of the criminals was allegedly “disrespected”. Gilligan reckons provocations are overlooked, appearing "trivial" to others. But a common “secret” is revealed among the men: “[They] feel ashamed—deeply ashamed, chronically ashamed, acutely ashamed, over matters that are so trivial that their very triviality makes it even more shameful to feel ashamed about them, so that they are ashamed even to reveal what shames them.” (43) Hence, Gilligan finds magnitude of shame and superficiality of its cause to be inversely proportional; the more “trivial” the trigger, the more intensified the shame (similar appeals are used to establish effective logos). The cause of aggression, it seems, goes untreated.

Suppose we humanize the criminals (Gilligan’s article adopts a compassionate tone, developing pathos). By listening to their stories, as a fellow human being, he finds that prisoners are treated like animals. Officers actually seem to enjoy de-humanizing them. According to one prisoner's account, the officer went to great lengths to publicly humiliate him. “While [one prisoner’s] self-esteem was already so damaged that he was already antisocial," relates Gilligan, "it is also true that prison was only rendering someone who was already wounded, and therefore dangerous, even more so” (42). Defeated, “these men perceive themselves as having no nonviolent means of warding off or diminishing their feelings of shame or low self-esteem” (44). Thus, misbehavior begets punishment, which begets more misbehavior- “the ultimate ‘vicious’ cycle” (41). Naturally, the men's mindsets only worsen.

It's time to put away the vinegar. All punishment and negativity and no compassion spells contempt and rebellion.

Finally, Gilligan finds that “the [violent] person lacks the emotional capacities or the feelings that normally inhibit the violent impulses that are stimulated by shame” (44). This part of Gilligan's theory is less solid. It seems more likely that feelings of shame have overpowered those of love, guilt, etc. They've been suppressed for so long, they're seemingly nonexistent: like recessive alleles for a gene. They may not be expressed phenotypically, but they're still there. Further, Gilligan claims “Most people are not moved to wipe out their families by the kinds of incidents that provoke those who do… but for those who are predisposed to abnormal, life-threatening pathology murder can be precipitated by events and circumstances that in another person might simply be incorporated into the ongoing metabolism of everyday life” (45). This implies violent people are biologically predisposed to act as they do (which seems to contradict his overall theory). Are they predisposed for violence because they’ve grown up in a ghetto with an alcoholic father, or is the chemical composition of their brains different from that of the “normal” person’s?

My senior year of high school, my math grades plummeted. Out of frustration and humiliation, I became increasingly more volatile to my parents, who, in response, neither understood nor diffused my anger. Instead, they would either equal my anger or punish me. So, ah- the answer seems simple. I watch my tongue, and do as they say, and relations improve. But yet, I persisted. I nearly got kicked out of my own home, by parents who have loved me my entire life.

But it became a sort of game; as my fear and humiliation festered, and my grades stagnated, I sought other means to prove my intellect, and thus, maintain power. Controlling my impulses became challenging.

I was lucky to have support from friends and family, as well as a second chance: Saddleback.

But what happens, I wonder, to those who have no one? Life does not always grant second chances. (Or the strength to discover them).

Perhaps this is how criminals become as they are- maybe a necessary cause of shame? “The theory [Gilligan] is presenting here suggests that most people have nonviolent means available to them to protect or restore their wounded self-esteem” (44). Why this may account for more male criminals, while not extremely higher in proportion than female criminals, is that it is not in a man’s nature (or perhaps, nurture) to ask for help. To do so would be to appear weak and unmanly.

What could have become of these men, had they not befallen the path of violence? Prominent artists share a tendency towards “insanity”, as do authors, musicians, and other highly creative individuals. It is a wonder, therefore, whether these individuals also possess high creative capacity.

Julia

It's "pore over," not "pour over." Something to pour over! ;-)

Richard Prouty

Hi Julia--

You're right! I should have written "pore over" rather than "pour over." Thanks for the correction!

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What Is One-Way Street?

One-Way Street [Einbahnstrasse, 1928] was Walter Benjamin's first effort to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived. For Benjamin criticism encompasses the ordinary objects of life, the literary texts of the time, films in current release, and the fleeting concerns of the public sphere. Following Benjamin's lead, this blog is concerned with the political content of the aesthetic and representations of the political in the media. As Benjamin writes in One-Way Street, "He who cannot take sides should keep silent."

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