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Alex Leegwater

Clarke Speed
Honors 231b
12 March 2013

Word Work:
contiguity: The state of bordering or being in direct contact with something; the
sequential occurrence or proximity of stimulus and response, causing their association
in the mind (Oxford).
universal homogeneity: consisting of parts that are all the same and not restricted
abnegation: the act of renouncing or rejecting something; self-denial (Oxford)
Mnemosyne: the personification of memory in Greek mythology, also the mother of
nine Muses (goddesses of singing, art, poetry, etc.) by Zeus. She also presided over a
pool in Hades which was the counterpart to Lethe, a river that dead souls would drink
from so they would not remember their past lives in reincarnation. Initiates were
encouraged to drink from Mnemosyne instead of Lethe.
ipseity: identity
dehiscence: the gaping or bursting of a pod/seed vessel or of a cut/wound (Oxford)
elucidate: make something clear; explain (Oxford)
: Greek for substance or essence
abrogate: to repeal or do away with (Oxford)
unimpeachable assignation: the allocation or attribution of someone or something as
belonging to something and which can not be doubted, questioned, or criticized
brother: male sibling generally through blood relation; a very close male friend; a man
or boy in relation to other sons and daughters of his parents (Oxford); a black man; a
male compatriot in Christ
torsion: the action of twisting or the state of being twisted, esp. of one end of an object
relative to the other (Oxford)

alienation: to be marginalized; stigma; not belonging to a specific community; the state

or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong
or in which one should be involved, estrangement (Oxford); a state of depersonalization
or loss of identity in which the self seems unreal, thought to be caused by difficulties in
relating to society and the resulting prolonged inhibition of emotion (Oxford)
quasi-transparent: almost clear; that which seems to be easy to perceive or detect but
isnt quite
autochthonous: indigenous rather than descended from migrants or colonists, formed in
its present position (Oxford)
agoraphobia: irrational fear of crowded or enclosed public places
death mask: absolutely immobilizes life; a covering of destruction
hemophiliacs hemorrhage: the copious, never-ending internal bleeding that will lead to
death; hemophilia is a blood related condition in which theres a major lack of the
clotting, causes severe bleeding with even a slight injury
coram: presence
prejorative: expressing contempt or disapproval (Oxford)
physiognomy: a persons facial features or expression, esp. when regarded as
indicative of character or ethnic origin, the art of judging character from facial
characteristics (Oxford); general form or appearance of something (Oxford)
efficacity: the ability to produce a desired or intended result (Oxford); the efficacity of
Plotinus: a major philosopher of the ancient world who had three principles to his
theory: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul (Neoplatonism)
emanation: an abstract but perceptible thing that issues or originates from a source; a
being or force that is a manifestation o f God (Oxford)
teleology: the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by
postulated causes; the doctrine of design and purpose in the material world (Oxford)
axiological emotion: feelings relating to the study of values; ethics and morality
epoque: an era (French)
kerygma: preaching

: sovereignty; dominion, authority, beginning, origin

interpellates: bring into being or give identity to
assignation: an allocation or attribution of someone or something as belonging to
something (Oxford)
hypertrophy: the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells
an sich: (German) philosophy of Kant: an object as it is in itself, independent of the
mind, as opposed to a phenomenon
in sich: (German) oneself; ones own person
chez soi: (French) at home
non-lieu: (French) no place
malheur: (French) misfortune
Nessus tunic: the poisoned shirt that killed Heracles (Hercules), Hercules wife naively
gave this shirt to him because she trusted Nessus (a centaur) who told her to give it to
him if he wasnt being faithful so shed love him again when in reality it was tainted with
the poisonous centaur blood; also known as a source of misfortune from which there is
no escape; a fatal present; anything that wounds the susceptibilities
reification: to make (something abstract) more concrete or real (Oxford)
declension: (in the grammar of Latin, Greek, etc) the variation of the form of a noun,
pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are
identified; a condition of decline or moral deterioration (Oxford)
tergiversation: making of conflicting or evasive statements; equivocate; change ones
loyalties (Oxford); to be a person who renounces a religious or political belief or
ex nihilo: Latin meaning out of nothing; references Creation
sub-jectum: Latin literally translating to that which is thrown under; that which lies
Hecuba: a queen in Greek mythology; her daughter, Polyxena, was murdered and the
murder of her son, Polydonus, caused her to take revenge on Polymestor; Greek

conatus essendi: a Latin phrase referring to the struggle or effort of living, being, and
concupiscence: strong sexual desire; lust (Oxford); a desire of the non-desirable
Luciferian way: that which claims to belong to the Good
illeity: the unbridgeable difference between self and other
ennui: utter weariness and discontent; boredom; annoyance; langour
tautological: a statement thats true by necessity or by virtue of its logical form (Oxford)
Einfhlung: empathy
phantasms: a figment of imagination; an illusion or apparition; an illusory likeness of
something (Oxford)
amortizes: reduce or extinguish (a debt) by money regularly put aside; gradually write
off the initial cost of (an asset) (Oxford)
psychosis: a mental state in which thought and emotions are extremely impaired to
create a loss with reality
me voici: (French) here I am
corporeality: of or relating to a persons body, esp. as opposed to their spirit; having a
body: a corporeal God (Oxford); tangible
interdiction: an authoritative prohibition (Oxford)
obsidional extradition: the act of handing over a person who was accused or convicted
of a crime to the state in which the crime was committed through force or compelling a
clandestinity: kept secret or done secretively, esp. because its forbidden
Gyges: the ring of Gyges is referenced by philosopher Plato and grants invisibility to
the wearer, story discusses whether morality is only a social construction or not based
on the unjust and the just people that wear it
interlocutor: a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation (Oxford)
veracity: conformity to facts; accuracy; habitual truthfulness (Oxford)
sophism: an argument based on a mistaken belief

enigma: that which is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand

belied: betrayed; fail to give a true notion or impression of something; to disguise or
contradict; fail to fulfill or justify a claim or expectation (Oxford)
ambiguity: lacking certainty
diachrony: the way something has evolved over time, especially in reference to
sine fundamento in re: Latin for without a basis in reality
eon: an indefinite and very long period of time; a power existing from eternity, an
emanation or phase of the supreme deity (from the philosophy in Neoplatonism,
Platonism, and Gnosticism) (Oxford)
empyrean: belonging to or deriving from heaven via medieval Latin from Greek
empurios (Oxford)
repudiation: rejection of a proposal or idea; refusal to fulfill or discharge an agreement,
obligation or debt; denial of the truth or validity of something (Oxford)
ineffable: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words; not to be uttered
(Oxford); yhwh
insomnia: the inability to sleep
arrythmia: a condition of the heart in which it beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm
eschatology: part of theology concerned with death judgment and the final destiny of the
soul and of human kind
spiderweb of a soul: the intricate, detailed, beautiful complexity of being and essence

Alex Leegwater
Clarke Speed
Honors 231B
13 March 2013
Laughing in the Face of Fear

In a moment of failure its not the end but instead, just the beginning. In a moment of
trauma comes a moment of understanding. Bohannon entered the encounter space with
a complete set of codes and multiple beings, unprepared for the violence and suffering
shed experience. She possesses multiple codes which force transformation. Her values
are shattered from Being to a being in question. Her naivety and Western ideologies are
engrained in her Being and she has to give this up in order to start anew. Bowen
experiences a breaking point in Tiv country and at this moment there is both a great
violence and a new genesis. This is where laughter and madness are revealed. They
cloak the reality and hide the grotesque. If the breaking point is too great, like it is with
Kurtz and Lucia, insanity, instead of laughter, is the only escape from reality.

Laughter keeps people sane and hides the evil, the violent, and the grotesque in order
to create some kind of resolution but when it is not enough madness becomes the only
other option. When one is accused of being mad or insane they are alienated from the
community that they were previously apart of. This alienation also produces freedom.
Lucia knows that she has freedom from everyone through marginalization because of
her insanity. Out of rejection comes a moment when its possible to embody a stigma
and one can therefore explore new communities and new forms of representation. Kurtz
is consumed by his insanity and although he is alienated from the rest of English people
inadvertently by entering deep into the mystification of Africa, he is also too concerned
with power. He is unable to become aware of a change in his Being and he doesnt see
the other in the encounter space. Kurtz puts the heads on stakes with only one head
facing out. This single head represents Kurtz which is a paradox. He appears to be the
own of great power facing out and watching everyone else when in reality hes being
consumed by Africa and the ivory in it. His insanity cloaks reality so thoroughly that he
ends up with nothing and dies.

Bowens set of codes and Western identity hold her captive[i] until she finally lets go and
a great trauma occurs. Redwoman is able to find community among the Tiv but with
this discovery comes great loss.[ii] She is forced to give up her previous identity and
when she does, she sees the horror of her own disintegration from which there is no
return. Bowen is initially stuck taking notes and she kills conversation as she is a salve
to theory. Her egocentric views constrict her from being responsible for the other.[iii] She
is not responsible without prior commitment and doesnt choose to understand the
people surrounding her. It is not until she returns after the smallpox epidemic that she

understands the horrors of reality and that her own identity has changed. When the
Africans are singing parables and dancing around the fire telling stories there is a pure
joy and happiness. For a moment Redwoman experiences freedom and laughs along
with them. She realizes her mistake and the changes that have occurred. With the loss
of her previous identity she is able to start anew.

Bowens responsibility and awareness of Self did not start from the beginning. However
in Nordstroms A Different Kind of War Story, the Mozambicans share an intense
responsibility for the other. They share community, culture, and creativity in a state of
great violence. Their responsibility, commitment, and obligation to the other is much
more apparent. For example, when multiple children are orphaned from the violence
and grotesqueness of the war, various women in the community step up to take these
children in and care for them like their own. Caring for anothers child, especially without
previous knowledge is a huge commitment. There is no initial gain for the other and she
does it out of the goodness of her heart, knowing that without her sacrifices and
sensitivity they would be left alone in an all too violent world. It requires many sacrifices
that mainly benefit the other, the children that are not her own.[iv] There is no prior
commitment[v], no written statement of responsibility yet they are one-for-the-other. This
responsibility also proves their creativity and fight against a war filled with violence. If
these children were let out on there own to learn about the realities of the world and the
true grotesqueness of war, they probably would only repeat a learned violence[vi] in a
society that instead has so much potential for creativity of a new peace.[vii] Granted, they
already have seen the horrors of the war, their own parents murdered before them, but
instead of taking this knowledge and acting upon it negatively[viii], they will resist
violence and laugh in its face to create anew that which was destroyed and taken from

The Mozambican responsibility extends into persecution and martyrdom[ix]. If the

Mozambican people let fear run their lives and had not stayed in the lines at the poll
stations, the elections for peace would not have occurred. They risked the chance of
punishment and retribution and their culture of resisting violence itself allowed them to
start anew with peace. They defied violence and fear by fighting back with passivity.[x]
By standing in line and risking persecution they chose to make a stand against the war
without having to resort to violence, death, hate, or fear. The violence that the
Mozambicans[xi] and the Tiv[xii] have experienced creates laughter. When Bowen and

Nordstrom see the grotesque but are also able to see the creativity (the Mozambicans
curandeiros and methods of removing violence and the Tivs parable telling) they finally
understand that humor masks the reality of a society that creates both failure and new
life. What is hidden in the grotesque is right under humor. The reality is known and
therefore they can laugh, all thats left to do is to laugh. There is no escape from the
horrors of the grotesque which is reality, except through laughter or madness. This
laughter is not a way of forgetting or resolving the violence for they can never forget or
resolve the violence. Instead, it is a reconciliation, a moment of freedom where at the
same time either everything makes sense or nothing makes sense.

This laughter is also not that which is funny and in no way does it minimize the horror of
the violence and the grotesque thats experienced all the time. From the terror and fear
comes creativity. Violence isnt antithetical to culture; its embedded in it. Apocalyptic
collapse doesnt end culture but begins it and in a moment of trauma comes a moment
of understanding. When one gives up their identity and becomes one-for-the-other, a
moment of freedom is possible. They were not products of cowardice unlike Bowen.[xiii]
She judges with her own code, the code of the privileged, with which there is no equality
similarly to the war zone in Mozambique that is bursting with factx, assumptions, and
privilege. The Western culture does not see their inadequacy or child-like behavior.[xiv]
There is a lack of understanding and therefore a lack of wisdom. The pride and ego that
is ever so apparent in Westernized identity overshadows the awareness of self as the
other and prevents creativity. This is why it takes so long for Bowen to enter into the
encounter space.

As an anthropologist, Bohannon comes to study their witchery. The Tivs codes are
quickly inserted into her being and she becomes Redwoman, a witch herself. She is
being converted by the people around her instead of the other way around. When
conversion is problematic, we resort to violence, whether it be symbolic, ritual or actual.
Through the act of denouncing she becomes even more dissolved in their system.
When she is past the point of laughter she admits the horror and violence but is
absolutely filled with madness and anger thus revealing the illusion of the mask of her
own social order. Redwoman experiences a crisis of faith and realizes that her Being is
not based in anything significant. A slight moment of madness allows her to step back
and then she finally realizes that laughter is what keeps people sane and she is the
other in the encounter space.

As she further enters the encounter space the grotesqueness and violence of every day
life are revealed to her. It is impossible for her to reconcile herself after coming into the
encountered space and she only comes back as a fragment. Thus the evolution from
Laura Bohannon to Redwoman to Elenore Smith Bowen. By devolving her own identity
(failure) she can create great power (creativity) and she exerts this power over Kako
when he scares her boys. In order for her to gain the recovery of truth that she so
greatly desires, she must first lose herself.[xv] When disease comes to claim the Tiv,
Redwoman believes that she is untouchable. She still doesnt understand her identity or
the encounter space. She is overcome by fear[xvi] despite her confidence in her
vaccine. At her return she finally enters the encounter space and realizes the other.
Marlow however, never steps off the boat and never experiences the encounter, he
cannot know what its like to experience fear and the laughter that is essential to
overcoming insanity. Kurtzs insanity is too great and he realizes this horror at his death.

Bowens encounter is far worse than what Marlow and Kurtz experience. In the end she
discovers there is nothing for her to do but return to laughter as laughter distracts from
the moment of bitterness. It is the language of the encounter space that displays human

Apocalyptic collapse doesnt end culture but begins it. Culture can be described as
creativity, and change and culture gone bad becomes violence until it is resolved and
regulated. Violence is at the core of cultural production not the antithesis. Kurtzs
method is to produce violence. If the desire to sustain it is strong enough, there will be a
fight against the heart and minds of human people. In A Different Kind of War Story,
soldiers are the instrument of violence who follow through with the orders theyre given.
And Marlow is the soldier in A Heart of Darkness that solely enters into the jungle of
secrecy with orders. He has no intention of entering the encounter space. The violence
that is created by war must be overcome and fought against. This only becomes
possible when the violence is fought with passivity and creativity. Humor and insanity
mask the reality that both Kurtz and Bowen become aware of at the end of their journey.


The modern world is above all an order, or a disorder in which the elites can no
longer leave peoples to their customs, their wretchedness and their illusions, nor even
to their redemptive systems, which, abandoned to their own logic, are implacably
inverted. These elites are sometimes called intellectuals (Levinas 1998: 184).

The belongingness to being is in fact not a rest in a harbor of peace; the dialectic of
being and nothingness within essence is an anxiety over nothingness and struggle for
existence. From the irony of essence probably come comedy, tragedy and the
eschatological consolations which mark the spiritual history of the West, in which to the
ultimacy of the concept and of the death of the subject is opposed the hope of escaping
the end (Levinas 1998: 176). Bowen experiences unimportance of identity in relation to
the other

Responsibility for the others has not been a return for oneself, but an exasperated
contracting, which the limits of identity cannot retain...It is to hold on to oneself while
gnawing away at oneself. Responsibility in obsession is a responsibility of the ego for
what the ego has not wished, that is, for others. This anarchy in the recurrence to
oneself is beyond normal play of action an passion in which the identity of a being is
maintained, in which it is (Levinas 1998: 114)

It is a passivity more passive still than any passivity that is antithetical to an act...It is
a vulnerability and a paining exhausting themselves like a hemorrhage...It is the
passivity of being-for-another, which is possible only in the form of giving the very bread
I eat. But for this one has to first enjoy ones bread, not in order to have the merit of
giving it, but in order to give it with ones heart, to give oneself in giving it. Enjoyment is
an ineluctable moment of sensibility (Levinas 1998: 72).

Responsibility for the other, this way of answering without a prior commitment, is
human fraternity itself, and it is prior to freedom (Levinas 1998: 116). The-one-for-theother goes to the extent of the-one-being-hostage-for-the-other (Levinas 1998: 141).

...Violence is a fluid and cultural construct...It is made.When it is employed by the

abusive, it has serious repercussions for everyone. Those exposed to violence learn
violence: and thus are capable of perpetuating it... (Nordstrom 1997: 217).

How is it possible to speak of creativity and violence in the same breath? Is this an
insidious way of glorifying violence, of reproducing its hegemony?...Mozambicans
demonstrated a creativity in conflict resolution as sophisticated as any resistance to
political oppression I have seen in fifteen years of studying war...Violence is not a fixed
entity, a truth to be dealt with, but instead it is a social, political, and cultural
construction that noncombatants-the targets of most violence-can redefine to assert
their own political will. In de-legitimizing violence, people reconstruct a new political
culture, one that delegitimizes the politics of force (Nordstrom 1997: 143-144).


I still expected to live with him, but he could not stand the fact that I had a child by
another man, even though it had been conceived in rape. He hit the child and called it
filth, and threw me and the child out...But my father felt much as my husband had. He
would hit my child and call him Renamo dirt, and tell me I was dirt to have produced
him...No other man will consider me now. I see no future for me...I cry, and my child
cries. But it is worse for him. He is treated like dirt, and he is starting to act like it: he is
angry and aggressive, withdrawn and difficult. He does not play and grow and learn
normally like the other boys. What will he grow up to be? This war has killed so much,
and it is killing generations to come ( Nordstrom 1997: 132).

The subjectivity of the subject is persecution and martyrdom...It is substitution for

another...It is one absolved from every relationship, every game, literally without a
situation, without a dwelling place, expelled from everywhere and from itself, one saying
to the other I or here I am. The ego stripped by the trauma of persecution of its
scornful and imperialist subjectivity, is reduced to the here I am, in a transparency
without opaqueness... (Levinas 1998: 146).

If the people had been intimidated by the threat of war and stayed home, the
elections would not have taken place...if the Mozambican people had not defied fear
and intimidation and walked those dangerous miles to the polling stations, Mozambique
might still be at war today...Not fighting with force is seen as passivity. The Mozambican
challenges this notion... a culture of resisting violence and of peacebuilding did develop
in Mozambique... Many Mozambicans fought, not one side or the other, not the
governments or militaries, but violence itself (Nordstrom 1997: 228).

The ultimate intent of the to defeat terror by laughing in its face-not
lightheartedly, but in resistance. Mozambicans do not laugh lightheartedly at the
violence of the war they live in, nor do they find it comic, but they do subvert terror
(Nordstrom 1997: 171).

In an environment in which tragedy is genuine and frequent, laughter is essential to

sanity. Such laughter is neither callous nor humorous. It is both to one of us, for behind
the protecting curtains of ease and resource which civilization has woven we grow
sensitive (Bowen 1964: 295).

...I sat there, the product of my pettiness and my cowardice (Bowen 1964: 289).


More than ever I had to admit that Poorgbilins senior wife had been right: I had the
heart of a child and had yet to learn wisdom (Bowen 1964: 291).

This play in being is consciousness itself: presence to self through a distance, which
is both loss of self and recovery in truth. The for itself in consciousness is thus the very
power which a being exercises upon itself, its will, its sovereignty (Levinas 1998: 102).

...I knew myself a coward (Bowen 1964: 273).