Political Animal Magazine2019-03-27T14:53:23+00:00

SPOTLIGHT

Silence as Speech: Reading Sor Juana’s Primero Sueño in the Light of her Final Silence

May 4th, 2016|

By: Rich Frontjes

Speakers and Listeners in Public Discourse

American public discourse is theoretically founded on the freedom of speech.  This freedom to speak, however, in no way guarantees entry into conversations where the common good is considered, assessed, or decided.  Free speech is the freedom to speak publicly—but participation in public discourse requires inclusion.  And inclusion is variously brokered: depending on the conversation, its participants, and the power dynamics at work, any given stream of public discourse involves a boundary.  On one side are the participants, and on the other side are the listeners—or, frequently, those whose attention is focused elsewhere.

In contemporary society, the boundary between participants and listeners exists partly as a function of access to media.  Individuals or groups with the (financial or other) power to gain access to media increase their chances of entering the public discourse.  The powerless, of course, are typically also voiceless.  But financial power has not always been the key that opened the door to participation in public discourse: various epochs and cultural moments have likewise had various modes of adjudicating participation in public discourse.

The present power of media outlets to perform this boundary-keeping function once resided largely within other institutions.  The Roman Catholic Church and its functionaries exercised considerable control over public discourse for centuries of European history and cultural development.  Exploring how participation in public discourse has been adjudicated in a specific past instance elucidates a dynamic which clarifies the nature of contemporary public speech.  In the example of the Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), we discover a turn of events in which ecclesial power brokers attempted to enforce silence upon an otherwise astoundingly prolific poet.[1] (more…)

THEORY

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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PRACTICE

Philosophical Arguments for Abortion

By |August 23rd, 2019|0 Comments

Arguments for ethical and legal conclusions on the topic of abortion are often pursued dialectically, with positive arguments developed in response to contrary positions and objections. Many people say they just “feel” that abortion is wrong or their “opinion” is that it’s not wrong. But complex issues require informed, fair and honest critical thinking, not just mere “feelings” or “opinions.”

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JUSTICE

Plato’s Crito: When should we break the law?

By |January 11th, 2019|0 Comments

Plato’s Crito describes a conversation that takes place in 399 B.C.E. in an Athens prison, where Socrates awaits execution.Not long before, an assembly of more than 500 Athenian citizens convicted Socrates of corrupting the youth and impiety, essentially failing to respect the gods of the city.

Democratic Socialism: An Impossible Dream? II

By |January 2nd, 2019|0 Comments

The first part of this article asserted that, contrary to the prevailing mythology on both sides of the Cold War, socialist revolutions never succeeded in creating genuine democratic socialism. Then, several insufficient explanations for why socialist revolutions failed to produce socialism were critiqued.

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ARTS & LETTERS

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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