“Panopticism” and “Our Secret”

In Michael Foucault’s reading on “Panopticism” he breaks down the social/economical systems and explains that society’s mentality on the law system. He answers the “why question” in a way certain individuals act and think as they do. Many times his explanation is much branched off into a different level of thinking. In one paragraph in “Panopticism”, a disciplinary mechanism is described, which is considered the best way for one person to be punished, in the new knowledge and learning is gained by every individual. But in “Our Secret” by Susan Griffins she carefully constructs and describes history, particularly WWII through the lives of several different people. Such as David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky who had a difficult time grasping her concepts that says, “Griffin writes about the past on how we can know it, what its relation to the present, why we should care. In the way she writes, she is also making an argument about how we can know and understand the past.” Griffin strikes all of these aspects in her essay. What is most compelling about the essay is how she incorporated personal, family, and world history into a good story of narrative, without ever losing the factual evidence the story provides.

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In the paragraph on page 182 in Ways of Reading, Foucault explains how he feels a person should be disciplined and he looks at it from different angle to really understand. “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the person inserted a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, which all events are recorded in an uninterrupted work of writing links the center and periphery, in which the power is exercised without the division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, that a person is constantly located, examined, and distributed among the living beings, sick, and the dead that constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism.” In the first sentence of the paragraph a description of how closely watched and evaluated the individuals are. All movement, all actions, everything would be analyzed. This is how he feels a disciplinary mechanism should be and is a key model to follow. Disciplining that way would make the individual a better person, which I believe; “exercising power without division” is an example.

In her essay, Griffin incorporates stories of people from totally different backgrounds, upbringings, including herself, all to describe the accounts of one time period. Each person history is somehow connected with the next, and each story contributes equally to the bigger picture of history. Griffin puts three types of histories in her text; personal, family, and world history. In her personal history, she describes her life, and childhood, which is intertwine with her family history. However, she not only talks about her histories, she talks about the histories of the other characters in the essay to bring across the world. One of the technique’s that Griffin uses to help the audience understand her concepts, is explaining two other story lines while telling her main story. The first on is description of a cell. Throughout the essay italicized sentences explaining the complex of a cell being placed randomly between passages. The description beings with a nucleus, and as the story progresses, so does the nucleus. She tells what happens to the nucleus, and how the inner cells work on developing a nucleus, which gave rise to many of other cells, that will eventually become an embryo. The other story line, were also italicize sentences, goes through the making and beginning of missiles.

“The plague is met by order; its function is to sort out every possible confusion that is of the disease, which is transmitted when bodies are mixed together, that the evil is increased when fear and death overcome prohibitions.” Disease definitely confuses the society when two or more people come together and embrace there disease. Evil becomes very overwhelming when it cannot be controlled or prevented; with the help of the plague everything becomes more controlled. “It lays down for each individual his place, his body, his disease, and his death, his wellbeing, by means of an omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimo determination of the individual, of what characterize him, of what belongs to him, of what happen to him.” The plague served as some sort of god to most of the people.

It breaks everything down and describes “omnipresent and omniscient power.” Act as keeping an eye on the person that sort the test, show how an individual would react knowing that they are being watched regardless if they believe it or not. Just how they would adapt to their own surroundings. What are the most compelling aspects about Griffin essay is the way she combine personal, family, and world, and etc. The reading is a novel, which helps the audience to understand the concepts with a clear and complete overall view of her world. Two other authors, Richard Rodriguez, and Ralph Ellison, who wrote about their life experience that’s better understood as an historical text that is view through the eyes of Griffin. Rodriguez explores his own educational history that called “The Achievement of Desire” and Ellison depicts his own journey and personal growth which is called “An Extravagance of Laughter”. Both their writing are seen through Griffin’s perspective, can be opened and examined from a different view, helping the people understand with more of a lucid view of history and what it is really about.

“The mixture of the plague brings into play its power, which is on the analysis.” In this sentence it describes the strength that is considered power. Learning can only make you more intelligent and the more you know the broader you understand would be which in your mental state would make you stronger. “A whole literary fiction of the festival grew up around the plague: suspended laws, lifted prospect, individuals unmarked, abandoning their statutory identity and the figure which they had recognized, allowing some different truth to appear”. When the individuals were changing their personalities to fit into the containment, as I said earlier in the essay, their trying to adapt to their environment. But their also political dream of the plague, that got reverse.

Not the collective festival, but strict divisions; not laws transgressed, but the penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life through the thoughts of complete hierarchy that assured the function of power; the masks were put on and off, but the assignment for each person was their “true” name, “true” place, “true” body, and “true disease”. This sentence talks about a different side of the plague, the “political side”. Instead of analyzing the people was forcing out the power to handle certain individual. This was the dream of many that instead of interaction and strict regulation of everything done.

The separated story lines are placed in the story to explain the background and the past of everyone. The background and past are factors in developing the present and future, and the characters in the story and tendency to try and forget their past, but not realizing that there are no escapes. Griffin illustrates the technique with Heinrich Himmler, a prominent Nazi figure during WWII. In every detail, she describes Himmler’s childhood, and the harsh ways of his father. She also trace his life, and evident there’s always a maker; base from his childhood that affect the decision made later on in his life. Griffins merely do this to help provide understanding on such behavior develops. The art of this technique being effective, however, that Griffin interconnects all three stories so the audience to understand other authors and texts. Richard Rodrigues is one author that already go through history, from an educational standpoint. He discusses his childhood, and how coming from a working class family improved his learning process. He examines a bit about his family history and personal history as well.

Rodriguez traces his family back to Mexico, their move to America, and the struggle of keep up with the America living lifestyle. He examine what was it like growing up in a Mexican American household. As he gets older he began to not like his background and roots at an early age. He was working on many ways to discard the Mexican persona and develop a stronger American one. Rodriguez hides himself behind an image of what he thinks he should be, but not who he really is. The aspect of his family and personal history into his world history. Both family and personal history with his family’s migrating to America. While the war was not in America, they had to endure racism and hardships in the comings to the United States. Another author that was looked at in the eyes of Griffin was Ralph Ellison’s “Extravagance of Laughter’s”. What was interesting about these two essays were not only that the histories, but a lot of the major themes were implied in the essays. Ellison has a vast personal history that surrounds by world history; however there is not too much evidence of his family history.

His personal history begins in the south to the north in the early nineteenth century. He talks about accounts of racism that occur in both places, which fall into a larger picture in world history. He remembers racism happening throughout the country at the time. Ellison combines so much personal history and world that became so difficult to distinguish that his personal history effected world history. One of the themes that stayed incorporated throughout both essay was constant effort to hide the truth. Ellison had difficult time admitting and realizing his true place in society. He wore “marks” to cover how he felt in certain situation that he was in. When Griffins talks about her family, she also speaks of a mask as well. She says, “I think of it now as a mask, not an animated mask that expresses the essence of the inner truth, but a mask that falls like dead weight over the human face, make face, making flesh a stationary object”. Both Ellison and Griffin felt trapped in there mark, and it took there self-dignity in freeing themselves of the mask. It hit Ellison during a play and it hit Griffin after learning about her family history.

All three authors are in a sense of historians. They write events that are in the past, which make it about history. The work they do are very good work, others use their writings as guideline of writing events in an historian context. The themes about finding the truth within one’s self are throughout working, and different types of histories are explored, making these text much more than just history. Ralph Ellison once said, “The way a person expresses both the agony of life and the possibility of conquering it through is the sheer toughness of the spirit. They fall short of tragedy only in that they provide no solution; offer no scapegoat but the self”.

“The plague as a form at once real and imaginary, of disorder had as its medical correlative disciple. Behind the disciplinary mechanisms can be read the haunting memory of “contagious” of the plague can be used as effective way disorder”. The plague can be used as an effective way to discipline; it is how they would use it to effect even if it would be possible. Each author demonstrates the toughness of theirs spirit, and it is up to the person to decide whether history will repeat itself or not. They all did the part in providing solutions for history.

Work Cited

Foucault, Michel. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison Ways of Reading/(New York: Vintage Books 1995) Tenth edition. pp. 195-228

Griffin, Susan. “Our Secret”. Way of Reading Eds: David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. Tenth edition. Boston. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2002.

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