The politics of remembering in autobiographical writing

This essay focuses on the autobiography—He de tener libertad (I Must Have Liberty)—of one of Spain’s greatest, most unrecognised political figures: Isabel Oyarzábal de Palencia. Written in December 2013, it explores the theme of remembering, a topic I studied for during a Modern Languages module at University of Exeter. In the text, what Oyarzábal de Palencia does not remember, or chooses not to, is just as significant—if not more so—than what she actually does.

Contexts are charged politically. […] [T]he politics of remembering—what is recollected and what is obscured—is central to the cultural production of knowledge about the past, and thus to the terms of an individual’s self-knowledge” (Smith & Watson). Discuss in relation to He de tener libertad.”

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Isabel Oyarzábal de Palencia

 
In Reading Autobiography, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson examine the political tension surrounding the act of remembering. First citing autobiographical narratives in Eastern and Western Germany helping to negotiate “different versions of national memory” (24), they argue how an ideological struggle exists “over who is authorised to remember and what they are authorised to remember, [and] over what is forgotten, both personally and collectively” (24). In the discussion of this subject, though autobiographical narratives in post-Cold War Germany are undoubtedly relevant, there is one political figure whose autobiography—He de tener libertad (I Must Have Liberty)—has almost been forgotten amongst modern-day critics of autobiographical writing. Described as “la gran feminista española” (Capdevilla-Argüelles 19), Isabel Oyarzábal de Palencia defied the social conventions of her patriarchal Spain to become a respected actress, a successful journalist, and her country’s very first female ambassador: an international figurehead for the Spanish suffrage movement. Written in Mexico City, where Oyarzábal de Palencia remained in exile until her death in 1974, He de tener libertad is a “retrato exhaustivo de toda una época” (Capdevilla-Argüelles 20), an alternative narrative to the Franco regime’s “mythic historiography” (Herzberger 36). Using Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography as a primary source of reference, this essay focuses on act of remembering in He de tener libertad: how what Oyarzábal de Palencia does—and does not—recall contributes to the cultural production of knowledge about the past throughout her lifetime.

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Mexico City, circa 1900

 
With Spain traditionally being a conservative country (almost to the extent of being antiquated), patriarchal authority was an influential socio-cultural force in the Malágan community in which Oyarzábal de Palencia was raised—although her own parents, especially her Scottish-born mother, were comparatively liberal. Whilst a young woman, she remembers how “un amigo le comentó a mi padre delante de mí que mis piernas consituían una tentación y que debería cubrirlas” (75). Feeling the pressure to conform to patriarchal convention, she also writes: “[la] falta de libertad y el constante cotilleo me ahogaban” (90). Towards the end of the 19th century, however, strongly influenced by the Spanish-American War (1898) in which Spain lost its last colony in the Pacific (Cuba), patriarchal authority in Spain was diminishing. During the war, after originally thinking “España iba a ganar” (74), Oyarzábal de Palencia recalls how there were “reyertas calleteras” and “las calles principales de la ciudad [estaban], llenas de moribunds tumbados en el suelo” (74). Along with her memories of openly tolerated sexism in her patriarchal society, this morbid description of the aftermath of the Spanish-American War on Spanish soil provides an insight into the reality of the country, banishing all notions of grandiose surrounding what remained of the imperialistic the Spanish Empire. As Smith and Watson write, they are memories that can “be productively read against the ideological grain” (25): her account of Spanish-American War thus subverts the Spanish government’s “myth-generating mechanisms” (Herzberger 38) Instead of asserting “continuity between the glories of an imperial Catholic Spain and the […] present” (Herzberger 35), which is precisely what the Franco regime attempted to achieve following the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Oyarzábal de Palencia depicts a country questioning patriarchal authority. As she remembers one old woman proclaiming following the uprising in Morocco, “¿Por qué nos quitan a nuestros hijos? […] ¿Por qué tenemos que quitarles su tierra [?]” (130).

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Spanish soldiers during the country’s Guerra Civil

 
In El aprendizaje del feminismo histórico en España, Mary Nash discusses the construction of gender identity with Spanish women, arguing “la maternidad […] es un factor decisivo en la construción social imaginaria de la noción de género” (5). Indeed, at one moment in He de tener libertad, Oyarzábal de Palencia remembers how maternity was so admired in Spain “que una mujer puede dar el pecho despreoucupadamente en público aunque no exponga ni una pulgada de su cuello o de su tobillo el resto del tiempo” (51). Evidently, for Spanish women in 19th and early 20th century, maternity and the domestic sphere were inextricable with the concept of femininity. For Oyarzábal de Palencia, however, correlating with Judith Butler’s “assertion that gender is performative” (Smith 214), such a definition of femininity was too dogmatic, demonstrated when she recounts: “Un día [Cefe] me dijo que dejase de trabajar después de que nos casásemos […]: jamás abandonaría todo aquello que había luchado tanto por conseguir” (125). Searching for “más libertad” (63), Oyarzábal de Palencia clearly recognises how “sociocultural structures are always partial rather than total [and] thus there is always the chance of changing the rules” (Smith 57). Certainly, her appointment as the Swedish ambassador of the Second Republic (1931-1939) manifests a successful liberation from the patriarchal definition of femininity, thus making Oyarzábal de Palencia one the very women she describes in Carmen Becomes a Citizen, “striving to direct the ideals of and all towards a higher moral standing” (188). Through her critique of the patriarchal concept of femininity, then, and her subsequent rejection of it, Oyarzábal de Palencia gives a subjective account of the “struggle for existence” (Oyarzábal de Palencia 183) of Spanish women, a struggle that was linked inseparably with the modernisation of Spain as a democratic nation.  This account subsequently allows one to recognise fully the “papel decisivo” (Capdevilla-Argüelles 9) Oyarzábal de Palencia played throughout her lifetime in the struggle of Spanish women against their “tremenda presión social” (Benítez), which echoes David K. Herzberger’s argument of “a subjective life that is always bound up with the past, with history” (40).

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Colegio de Málaga, circa 1880

 
To express the act of remembering, Oyarzábal de Palencia uses what Smith and Watson classify as the narrating I, “a persona of the historical person who wants to tell […] a story about the self” (72). With Oyarzábal de Palencia, her general persona is a modern-minded, independence-seeking woman: “una mujer seria,” as the Spanish poet Rafael Cansinos-Asséns writes, “una intectual” (qtd. in Capdevilla-Argüelles 25). However, behind the narrated I lies historical I, “the person […] whose life is far more dispersed than the story that is being told of it” (Smith 73). In Oyarzábal de Palencia’s own domestic sphere, despite the anti-authoritarian persona of her narrating I, the historical version of herself is actually a woman who often conformed to the patriarchal definition of femininity. As Nuria Capdevilla-Argüelles says, “aunque [Oyarzábal de Palencia] trabaja, también cocina, decora, apoya a su marido, cría a unos ninos” (26) Consequently, in He de tener libertad, there are aspects of Oyarzábal de Palencia’s domestic sphere that the narrating I obscures—particularly with the infidelity of her husband, Cefe. When discussing the woman with whom Cefe has an affair, for example, Oyarzábal de Palencia simply describes her as “una mujer hermosa” (165), and Cefe’s confession is confined to just two words: “confesó todo” (167). With her writing: “La memoria posee una inmensa capacidad de reavivir el dolor aun cuando la causa de ese dolor ya no exista” (165), Oyarzábal de Palencia seems to be avoiding an in-depth examination of her own emotions. Although one can understand this aversion, Oyarzábal de Palencia inadvertently creates a distance between her historical self and her narrating I—a distance that highlights what has been obscured in He de tener libertad. Consequently, by choosing not to “constitute [the affair fully] through recollection for the reader” (Smith 73), Oyarzábal de Palencia’s anti-authoritarian persona highlights the control of the narrating I over the narrated I, “the protagonist of the narrative” (73), providing an insight into Spanish politics during Oyarzábal de Palencia’s lifetime—yet equally obscuring key aspects of her private life. Despite the issues arising from its subjectivity, however, the narrating I remains the most significant aspect to He de tener libertad: autobiographical narratives—a central aspect to understanding and examining the past—would not exist without it.

Works Cited:

Benítez, Enrique. Isabel Oyarzábal: Una mujer ejemplar. Málaga: LaOpinión de Málaga, 2010. Web. 23 Dec. 2013. <http://www.laopiniondemalaga.es/cultura-espectaculos/2011/06/08/isabel-oyarzabal-mujer-ejemplar/428424.html&gt;.

Capdevilla-Argüelles, Nuria. Introducción: He de tener libertad. Madrid: Horas y HORAS, 2010. 9-28. Print.

Herzberger, David K. Narrating the past: History and the Novel of Memory in Postwar Spain. N.p.: Modern Language Association, n.d. JSTOR. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. <http:/www.jstor.org/stable/462821>.

Nash, Mary. El aprendizaje del feminismo histórico en España. N.p.: nodo50, n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2013. <http://www.nodo50.org/mujeresred/historia-MaryNash1.html#fhms&gt;.

—. Carmen Becomes a Citizen. Vol. 226. N.p.: The North American Review, 1928. 183-88. 2 vols. JSTOR. Web. 23 Dec. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25110553&gt;.

Oyarzábal de Palencia, Isabel. He de tener libertad. Trans.

Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles. Madrid: Horas y HORAS, 2010. Print.

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. Second ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. N. pag. Print.

©BenStupples2014

Perspective in European modernist literature: 1895—1914

Written over a two-week period in April 2014, this is an essay I wrote at University of Exeter about Miguel de Unamuno’s Niebla and Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. As you can tell from the title, it focuses on the theme of the self and the its perspective on the surrounding world. If you like long-reads, I hope you might enjoy reading the essay as much as I enjoyed writing it:

‘The primacy of the individual consciousness as a source of all interpretations of the world’ has been described as ‘one of the central tenets of Modernism’ (Longhurst). To what extent do two novels support, or fail to support, this view?

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Miguel de Unamuno (29 September 1864–31 December 1936)

 
In ‘The Name and Nature of Modernism,’ Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane define modernism as “a movement towards introversion, [and] internal self-scepticism” (26). Developing that definition further, they also categorise it as: “the art consequent on the dis-establishing of communal reality, and […] on the wholeness of individual character” (27). As modernism evolved at the turn of the 20th century across Europe, a period of “rapid industrial development […] and advanced technology” (Bradbury 57),[1] there was clearly a re-consideration of “objective reality” (Nagel 25) and self-knowledge—specifically individual consciousness. During this period, as Allan Bullock writes, “[modernists] believed, rightly, that they were developing new ways of looking at the physical universe […] and new ways of understanding man and society” (68). Through their protagonists, Jude Fawley and Augusto Perez, both Thomas Hardy and Miguel de Unamuno explore individual consciousness as a source of subjective interpretation—but not all interpretation—in Jude the Obscure (1895) and Niebla (1914), the two novels, or “nivola” (200), in Unamuno’s case, I shall discuss in this essay. Of course, in its most traditional sense, neither Hardy nor Unamuno were considered to be part of the original modernist movement.[2] In both texts, though, perhaps most noticeably in Niebla, Hardy and Unamuno explore individual consciousness—and explore the nature of reality’s professed objectivity—in a way that conforms to the modernist movement. Indeed, as Barry N. Schwartz writes about Jude Fawley: “[He] is one of the first anti-heroes of existentialism and able guide to the realities of twentieth-century life” (793).

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Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928)

 
Towards the beginning of Jude the Obscure and Niebla, both Hardy and Unamuno portray their “hyper sensitive” (Murphy 79) protagonists as pensive, introverted characters, a deliberate ploy that establishes them to be removed from their surrounding world. In the first two chapters, Hardy describes Jude as “thoughtful” (2), “before his time” (3) and “crazy for books” (6). Later on, during a “leap of thought,” Hardy also writes: “[Jude] had become entirely lost to his bodily situation” (15). Unamuno, meanwhile, describes Augusto as “sin darse […] cuenta” (110) of what he is doing, his mind ruled by his “loca fantasía” (113). Discussing Augusto Perez, Mario J. Valdés categorises such self-containment as “[un] estado psicológico de ensimismamiento” (26), a “hollow” (Ilie 8), indefinite state of mind. In Niebla, demonstrated through Augusto’s remarks about it, Unamuno uses the “paraguas cerrado” (109) as a symbol of this introverted mindset. During the opening scene, for example, Augusto says: “Un paraguas cerrado es tan esbelto como es feo un paraguas abierto” (109). Two lines later, he then proclaims: “El uso estropea y hasta destruye toda belleza […] ¡Qué bella es una naranja antes de comida!” (109) Like Jude, who allows his mind to become “impregnated” (26) with thought, the umbrella serves to show how Augusto prefers introversion to extroversion and, as his remarks about the orange suggest, considers an inert, still-life object to be more beautiful than one immersed in the external world. However, as Paul Ilie argues in Unamuno: An Existential View of Self and Society, “Individuality alone is a brute state, unsocial and uncommitted. Personality […] knits the individual into a social and cultural fabric” (60). Ironically, then, categorised as an “embriogénico” (Valdés 25) mindset, the primacy of Jude’s and Augusto’s individual consciousness is initially too intimate to be considered a source of interpretation of the world. In order to develop a coherent sense of self, both Jude and Augusto must engage with their external environment. Their outlooks, until they do so, are only self-introspective.

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‘Mist,’ the Spanish-English translation for Unamuno’s title

 
In a letter to the English poet Edmund Gosse, Hardy describes Jude the Obscure as an attempt “to show the contrast between the ideal life a man wished to lead, & the squalid real life he was fated to lead,” (qtd. in Taylor xxvii). This notion of reality’s “cruelty” (294) oppressing individual desire or “vision” (288) is demonstrated best in the novel through Jude’s subjective vision. With “his dreams […] as gigantic as his surroundings were small” (14), Jude longs to escape the “hamlet of Marygreen” (3) for Christminster, the city in which Jude imagines himself studying at the University. Perceiving Christminster as “a city of light” (17), Jude becomes “romantically attached” (16) to the city, giving him “something to anchor on, to cling to” (17). Evidently, through the use of “anchor,” Hardy portrays Jude’s consciousness as more externalised, and the reader thus begins to observe Jude’s surroundings through his individual consciousness. In Chapter III, for example, once “the mist” (13) has risen over “the topaz points” (14), Jude finally sees for the first time the city’s “vanes, windows [and] wet roof slates” (14). Shortly after, Jude then concludes: “It was Christminster, unquestionably; either directly seen, or miraged in the peculiar atmosphere” (14). However, described as a possible mirage, what Jude sees is not “unquestionably” Christminster. Indeed, before it becomes “veiled in mist” (14) again, the city is even described as “vague” (14). In the case of Christminster, then, Jude’s individual consciousness becomes a source of interpretation. With the intrusion of an omniscient narrator, though, who undermines Jude’s subjective vision, the reader can justify questioning Jude’s subjective perception. By using two contrasting narratives, this scene is a prime example of the “multiplicity and incongruity” (qtd. in Murphy 58) that lies behind Hardy’s narrative in the novel.

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Thomas Hardy’s signature

 
Shortly after Augusto’s remarks about the umbrella, Unamuno embarks on one of Niebla’s most critiqued scenes: Augusto’s stream of consciousness, a modernist technique—utilised most famously in James Joyce’s Ulysees (1922)—that draws parallels to Hardy’s use of subjective vision. Strolling along the pavement, Augusto notices a child “tirado de bruces en el suelo” (110) prompting him to ask himself: “¿qué hará allí?” (110). Continuing to observe his surroundings, Augusto also sees: “[un] gandul que va ahí, a paso de carga, codeando a todos aquellos con quienes se cruza” (110). Once Augusto spots them, both the child and the beggar immediately enter Niebla’s narrative through a “cadena de asociaciones” (Valdés 27). In these observations, linking the mind’s activity directly to the external world, Unamuno captures the spontaneous, chaotic pattern of individual consciousness. As William James, a pioneer of stream of consciousness, writes: “It is nothing joined; it flows. […] Let’s call it the stream of thought, consciousness, or subjective life” (qtd. in Stevenson 39). Like Hardy with Jude’s subjective vision, then, Unamuno suggests that reality could be purely subjective, a concept that Immanuel Kant discusses when he categorises “our successive states of mind as perceptions” (Scrutton 20). In turn, this notion of perception links with the Kantian theory “that the mind does not passively receive information” (Murphy 61). In this sense, then, Augusto’s individual consciousness is central to his interpretation of his external world. Indeed, although his subjective perspective is limited, it is arguably the means through he constructs his entire sense of reality. Relating to Unamuno’s interest in “the consciousness of self […] and of God” (Ilie 9), this portrayal of the external world thus questions the basis of reality’s objectivity as Augusto’s construction of it is purely within his mind.

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James Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941), a pioneer of the stream of consciousness technique

 
In The Critique of Pure Reason (1781), one of the most influential works in philosophy’s history, Immanuel Kant introduces the theory of the “thing in itself” (49), a concept that both Hardy and Unamuno employ in Jude the Obscure and in Niebla. In a letter, Kant explains this theory as: “All objects that can be given to us can be conceptualised in two ways: on the one hand, as appearances; on the other hand, as things in themselves” (qtd. in Scrutton 48). As this summary suggests, Kant’s concept of appearance, like Jude’s subjective vision and Augusto’s stream of consciousness, relies solely on the subjectivity of individual consciousness. In Section One, for example, Kant argues how “a rose […] is taken by the em-pirical understanding for a thing in itself, though to every different eye, in respect of its colour, it may appear different” (49). With Jude the Obscure, Jude’s subjective vision of Christminster undoubtedly corresponds with Kant’s example of the rose. On one side, the omniscient narrator provides an insight into Christminster’s actual appearance, the thing in itself, which possesses “an estranged look” (162). Jude, conversely, is so prejudiced in his outlook that he sees a “faint halo” (63) rising above the city and, whenever he passed objects “out of harmony” (69) whilst walking through it for the first time, “he allowed his eyes to slip over them” (69). As Norman Prentiss writes, “Jude’s subjective vision creates a harmony where it does not exist” (183). His subjective perception highlights how each individual can ignore or distort the reality they perceive, and that the mind can only process objects as appearances. Indeed, as Hardy himself writes: “We don’t always remember […] that we get only at the true nature of the impression that an object […] produces on us, the true thing in itself being still beyond our knowledge, as Kant shows” (qtd. in Murphy 62).

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Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804)

 
In Niebla, the same philosophy applies to Augusto’s relationship with Eugenia, “la garrida moza” (110) that, during his stream of consciousness, “se dio cuenta” (111) he had been following. Initially, Augusto only sees her eyes, which leads him to conclude that, since he barely saw her face, “tuvo que figurársela” (114). Shortly after this moment, Augusto declares: “La vida es una nebulosa,” and Eugenia “surge de ella” (115). Akin to Jude’s attachment to Christminster, Augusto also says: “[Con Eugenia] ya tiene mi vida una finalidad […] Por lo menos, mi Eugenia, ésta que me he forjado sobre la visión fugitiva de aquellos ojos” (118) With Eugenia, Augusto perceives an alternative version of her, and, unlike Jude with Christminster, he seems to acknowledge doing so. In Augusto’s mind, relating to Kant’s rose, this alternative Eugenia appears to be just as valid as the ‘actual’ version. Indeed, as she is the product of his individual consciousness, Augusto even suggests his imaginary version is unattainable to anyone else, evident when he lays claim to “mi Eugenia” (119). Like Jude’s Christminster, then, there are two possible versions of Eugenia: Augusto’s version of her, with the “resplandor” (117) of her eyes, and the omniscient narrator’s version, the thing in itself, which reveals Eugenia had “adivinó […] que [Augusto] la había seguido” (117). As in Jude the Obscure, there is a contrast between Augusto’s perspective and his external world: outside his individual consciousness, his version of Eugenia does not exist—yet he still considers her to be real. Instead of perceiving the external world, Augusto seems to be become fixated with his own concept of it. As Orfeo, Augusto’s stray dog, says about mankind’s perception of reality in Niebla’s epilogue: “En cuanto le ha puesto un nombre a algo, ya no ve este algo, no hace sino oír el nombre que le puso, o verle escrito” (297).

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Oxford, the real-life setting for Hardy’s Christminster

 
Curiously, in both texts, between these subjective and omniscient perspectives, one can discover the image of mist. Whilst reflecting on Eugenia’s eyes, for instance, together with the cited example of her rising out of mist, Augusto describes them as: “[dos] refulgentes estrellas mellizas en la nebulosa de mi mundo” (116). When Augusto, ironically, fails to spot Eugenia walking past him due to being engrossed in thought about her, Unamuno also writes: “La niebla [en su alma] era demasiado densa” (19). In Jude the Obscure, “the mist” (14) could simply be pathetic fallacy, a symbolic representation of Jude’s anxiety. Indeed, when Jude says: “a cloud has gathered over [Sue, the children and me]” (284), Hardy provides an example of this technique. Equally, though, it could also be a symbol of the ambiguity between Jude’s subjective vision of Christminster and, to use Kant’s terminology, the thing in itself: the Christminster described by the novel’s omniscient narrator. In Niebla, the same argument applies to Augusto: is he simply besotted by his own imagined Eugenia, or the actual version of her? In both cases, Hardy and Unamuno fail—and do so deliberately, in all likelihood—to provide a definitive answer, and the inconclusive image of mist thus becomes a symbol of this existential conundrum. Essentially, it embodies Hardy and Unamuno asking: does individual consciousness construct reality, as Jude’s subjective vision and Augusto’s stream of consciousness suggest? Alternatively, does an omniscient narrator construct it, a Providence-like figure that sees and knows everything? Frustratingly, whilst both Hardy and Unamuno both want their readers to ask those questions, to choose between them would be simplifying what the writers try to achieve. Instead, as Victor Goti declares in Niebla, they are attempting confuse everything “en una sola niebla” (272).

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An artist’s sketch of a younger Miguel de Unamuno

 
Conventionally, by creating a fictional world, any third-person narrator automatically becomes empowered with an “unconditioned” (Ross 144), God-like perspective. As Gustave Flaubert writes, “the author of his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere” (qtd. in Lee 50). Despite Hardy’s and Unamuno’s portrayals of individual consciousness, their third-person narrators are undoubtedly omnipresent—and arguably the only source of all the world’s interpretations. In Jude the Obscure, one can detect the omniscient narrator via the portrayal of “a middle-aged man […],” Richard Pilloston, Jude’s old schoolmaster, “dreaming a dream of great beauty” (145). Later on, at the Great Wessex Agricultural Show, the reader learns about “the smouldering maternal instinct” (268) of Arabella, Jude’s (at the time) estranged wife. In both quotes, there is an insight—an intrusive one—into the characters’ state of mind. Naturally, through his individual perspective, it is not an observation that Jude could possibly make. Unlike Jude’s subjective vision, the omniscient narrator can portray, to quote Kant, “the world as it is” (qtd. in Scutton 52). Indeed, as Scrutton writes, “it is the ultimate premise whose truth is derived from no other source” (53). In his preface to Jude the Obscure, Hardy describes the novel as: “an endeavour to give shape and coherence to a series of seemings, or personal impressions” (qtd. in Murphy 59). However, besides Jude’s individual consciousness, Hardy does not recognise his use of the omniscient narrator. Demonstrated when the novel continues after Jude’s death, it is this omniscient perspective that gives the widest interpretation of Jude the Obscure’s world. On this occasion, then, Hardy establishes why Linda Shires describes him as a “proto-modernist” (qtd. in Murphy 58). As a nineteenth-century century writer, despite Jude’s subjective vision, he cannot break fully away from literary tradition.

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Gustave Flaubert (December 12 1821 – May 8 1880)

 
In Niebla, written a decade after Jude the Obscure, Unamuno displays a far more modernist approach towards the omniscient narrator’s objective perspective— notably when Augusto decides to visit Antolin S. (ie., Sanchez) Paparrigopolus. In the Cátedra edition, Antolin’s character is given a detailed description for almost seven pages, the longest passage without dialogue in Niebla. In contrast to Augusto, whilst he also boasts an “austero amor a la santa Verdad” (236), the third-person narrator describes Antolin’s mind as “sin nebulosidades ni embolismos” (233). On one hand, the length of this passage may be satirical, a possible means of reflecting Antolin’s egotism,[3] demonstrated through his belief that “era de los [hombres] que van a alguna parte” (237). On the other hand, it represents the traditional narrative form that, mainly through his exploration of individual consciousness, Unamuno generally subverts in Niebla. Evident via “su honda fe en la ignorancia ambiente” (238), Antolin’s outlook on his external world is old-fashioned. Likewise, with the omniscient narrator and little dialogue—the latter regarded as how Unamuno captures “la realidad del mundo” (Valdés 19) in Niebla—so is the passage’s narrative. When discussing Antolin, however, by writing: “este hombre, quiero decir, […] este erudito” (238) Unamuno undermines his omniscient narrator’s objectivity. Suddenly, the previous seven pages, which originally appeared as facts, become subjective: a product of the narrator’s individual consciousness. Later on, when he interrupts the narrative, proclaiming “yo soy el Dios [de mis personajes]” (252), Unamuno identifies himself to be the source of this individual consciousness. Unlike Hardy in Jude the Obscure, then, Unamuno recognises his own consciousness as the source of all interpretations of Niebla’s world. Realistically, within literature, Unamuno shows perhaps the only way that individual consciousness can become omnipresent.

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As well as being an Anglophile, Unamuno developed almost obsessive interest – curiously – in origami

 
In ‘The Language of Modernist Fiction,’ David Lodge argues: “modernist fiction eschews […] the use of a reliable, omniscient and intrusive narrator. It employs, instead, either a single, limited point of view, or multiple viewpoints” (481). To varying degrees, both Hardy’s and Unamuno’s handling of multiple, conflicting narrative viewpoints applies to this definition of modernist fiction. Through Jude’s subjective vision and Augusto’s stream of consciousness, both authors explore the mind’s interpretation of a conditioned reality. Doubting the notion of “objective truth” (Solomon 73), they recognise the impossibility to know the world, as Kant categorises it, “in its unconditioned totality” (qtd. in Scrutton 55) and they subsequently raise the following issues for their characters: “Who am I? What do I believe in? What is my relationship to that which is not me?” (Ilie 5).[4] Whilst Hardy and Unamuno both give “explicit emphasis […] to the supremacy of subjective thinking” (McFarlane 76), though, there is a clear transition from the Jude the Obscure’s proto-modernism to Niebla’s fully-fledged modernism. Through Jude’s subjective vision, in relation to Longhurst’s quote, Hardy may well capture the primacy of individual consciousness—or “experience from within” (Murphy 64)—and question the objectivity of God’s “stern reality” (364). However, Unamuno’s subjective-omniscient narrator—a construction that relates to his “well-known fondness for paradox” (Olson 12)—shows perhaps the most emphatic example of individual consciousness as a source of all the world’s interpretations. Essentially, both Hardy and Unamuno explore the modernist concept of individual consciousness and its interpretation of the external world. Ultimately, though, Hardy’s omniscient narrator means that Jude the Obscure—unlike Niebla—cannot be considered to be a modernist text in the conventional sense. Paradoxically, having said that, the fact Jude the Obscure was originally published in the earliest phases of the modernist movement in 1895 “exemplifies Hardy’s modernity” (Murphy 61) as a Victorian-period writer.

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Found in Dorset, the house where Thomas Hardy lived between 1881 and 1883

 
Endnotes:

[1] In Europe, between 1895 and 1915, technological and scientific advances questioned “the whole picture of the physical universe” (Bullock 66). To select a few, these advances included: electricity, X-rays, the discovery of electrons and isotopes, and, perhaps most importantly, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (Bullock 59).

[2] After the public “hysterically attacked [the novel] as immoral” (Bloom 63), Jude the Obscure, published in 1895, was Hardy’s last novel. Following such a negative reception, Hardy wrote: “the experience completely [cured] me of further interest in novel-writing” (qtd. in Bloom 63). Unamuno’s Spain, meanwhile, with “its failure to match the industrial revolution of other Western European countries” (Herr 28), was failing to “adapt to modern civilization” (Herr 28). Throughout the same period, contributing to the “anxiety over Spain political instability” (Herr 28), the country was also engaged in the Spanish-American War until 1898—which culminated in El desastre: when Spain lost Cuba, the last of the Spanish Empire’s remaining colonies.

[3] According to Paul Olson in Niebla: Critical Guides to Spanish Texts: “Lópes-Morillas has pointed out [Antolin’s] similarity to satirical figures in [Unamuno’s] earlier novels, such as the poet Hildebrando F. Menaguti in Amor y pedagogía” (59).

[4] In Hardy’s Victorian society, whilst Hardy was well-known as “as the village atheist” (qtd. in Taylor xx), individuals were beginning to ask such questions; in Unamuno’s post-imperialism Spain, they were ones that Unamuno himself, a man “who profoundly disliked the establishment of any rigid categories” (Olson 9), publicly addressed as a key member of the Generación del 98. Published in 1912, for instance, Unamuno wrote in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida: “La fe no se siente segura […] ni con la tradición, ni bajo la autoridad” (qtd. in Arredondo 224). Evidently, Jude the Obscure and Niebla, there is a wider significance to Hardy and Unamuno’s portrayals of individual consciousness and the perception of reality.

 
Works Cited:

Arredondo, Christopher B. Quixotism: The Imaginative Denial of Spain’s Loss of Empire. New York: SUNY Press, 2005. Print.

Bloom, Harold. Edwardian and Georgian Fiction. N.p.: Chelsea House Publications, 2005. Print.

Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. Modernism: A Guide to European Literature. London: Penguin Books, 1991. Print.

—. “The Name and Nature of Modernism.” Modernism: A Guide to European Literature. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. London: Penguin Books, 1991. 19-55. Print.

Bullock, Alan. “The Double Image.” Modernism: A Guide to European Literature.

Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. London: Penguin Books, 1991. 58-70. Print.

Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 1995. Print.

Herr, Richard. An Historical Essay on Modern Spain. California: University of California Press, 1992. Print.

Ilie, Paul. An Existential View of Self and Society. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1967. Print.

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University, 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.

Lee, Susanna. A World Abandoned by God. Bucknell: Bucknell University Press, 2006. Print.

Lodge, David. “The Language of Modernist Fiction.” Modernism: A Guide to European Literature. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. London: Penguin Books, 1991. 482-496. Print.

McFarlane, James. “The Mind of Modernism.” Modernism: A Guide to European Literature. Bradbury, Malcolm, and James McFarlane, eds. London: Penguin Books, 1991. 71-93. Print.

Murphy, Katherine. European Connection: Re-reading Pío Baroja and English Literature. Vol. 17. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.

Nagel, Thomas. The View From Nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print.

Olson, Paul R. Critical Guide to Spanish Texts: Unamuno: Niebla. Valencia: Grant & Cutler Ltd., 1996. Print.

Prentiss, Norman D. The Tortured Form of Jude the Obscure. N.p.: Colby Quarterly, 1995. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.

Ross, Stephen D. Perspectives in Whitehead’s Metaphysics. New York: State University of New York Press, 1983. Print.

Schwartz, Barry. “Jude the Obscure in the Age of Anxiety.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. Vol. 10. Houston: Rice University, 1970. 793-804. 4 vols. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

Scrutton, Roger. “Kant”. German Philosophers. Scrutton, Roger, Peter Singer, Christopher Janaway, and Michael Tanner. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.

Solomon, Robert C. From Hegel to Existentialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

Stevenson, Randall. Modernist Fiction: An Introduction. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1992. Print.

Taylor, Dennis. Introduction. Jude the Obscure. By Thomas Hardy. 1895. London: Penguin Books, 1998. xvi-xxxv. Print.

de Unamuno, Miguel. Niebla. 1914. Madrid: Catedra Letras Hispánicas, 2009. Print.

Valdés, Mario J. “Comentario de Niebla.Niebla. By Miguel de Unamuno. 1914. Madrid: Catedra Letras Hispánicas, 2009. 22-46. Print.

©BenStupples2014

How does music effect today’s youth?

Bono, the lead singer of Dublin-based rock band U2, asserts that ‘music can change the world because it can change people (Morreale 295),’ and indeed it does – both positively and negatively. Commanding the potential to transcend all boundaries of communication, music is one of the world’s most influential cultural forces. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[1] states, it is the ‘universal language of mankind (Morreale 294).’ Those, then, that can successfully harness its power can influence the beliefs of individuals significantly, and there is one group of individuals that is often affected in particular: adolescents. Helping them to ‘create a personal identity’ as they provide ‘information about society, social and gender roles, and expected behaviour’ (Martino Exposure) in their work, musicians can become a young person’s role model. On the website LAyouth, for instance, 18 year-old Nancy Berabe writes that Bob Marley’s reggae music is what she looks for ‘every time I need some uplifting,’ motivating her ‘to overcome the tough times I encounter each day (Music).’ Indeed, after being reprimanded for not attending school once when she was 13, Nancy says that it was Marley’s lyrics: ‘There you are crying again / But your loveliness won’t cover your shame’ from ‘Stand Alone’ that made her ‘reflect’ (Music) on her actions and thus ‘encouraged’ (Music) her to attend classes each day. The changeable impact musicians can have over adolescents subsequently brings about a degree of responsibility in regard to what message(s) they communicate through their lyrics and music videos – a prominent issue in British society today. However, before examining the UK’s contemporary music culture (which shall be done later on in this article) it is important to understand in what ways music has previously affected adolescents of the modern world[2] as it will provide a further insight into the subject of this article: the power of contemporary music over the UK’s youth[3].

The power of music in the western world: 1945 – 1989

The origin of modern music arguably began with a man born in Tupelo[4] on the 8th of January, 1935, who grew to become ‘the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music’ (Victor 598): Elvis Presley. When he sparked the inception of the Rock ‘n’ Rollrevolution with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in January 1956, the first of his 18 US number one singles, Elvis Presley could never have envisioned the profound impact his music would have on the rest of the world. Influenced by African-American blues musicians such as B. B. King and Ivory Joe Hunter, his distinct sound (along with his knee-swinging, leather-jacketed image) signified a step away from the more mainstream swing musicians of the time, altering both the music industry and American society irrevocably. ‘He bought together American music,’ Rolling Stone magazine states, ‘from both sides of the color line and performed it with a natural sexuality that made him a teen idol and role model for generations of cool rebels (Kemp Elvis).’ Consequently, he attracted younger, more zealous fans than any other preceding male artist in the 20th century – even Frank Sinatra, and his societal impact gave the American youth ‘a belief in themselves as a distinct and somehow unified generation—the first in America ever to feel the power of an integrated youth culture (Jezer 281).’ Elvis Presley’s music, then, is perhaps the first major instance in recent history of music empowering adolescents on a widespread scale. Forging a future away from the country’s wretched experiences in the 1940s, a decade that included World War II and the Great Depression, he became the slick-haired symbol of America’s youth, and his overwhelming popularity among them foreshadowed similar fan phenomena later on in the century – Beatlemania, for instance.

During the early 1960s in the UK, The Beatles[5] broke into the UK’s music scene with their first commercially successful single: ‘Please Please Me,’ and by the end of 1963, just six years after John Lennon first formed the skiffle group that would eventually become the most successful music act in history (Costello 100), they had gathered an unprecedented number of dedicated young fans – mostly screaming teenage girls. Like Elvis Presley’s rock ‘n’ roll revolution, one of the genres in which The Beatles’ music style was initially rooted, The Beatles had a remarkable impact on its younger listeners – they even made basin haircuts seem stylish for some time. In the UK, they represented part of the younger population’s dismissal of the ‘prejudices and uptight attitudes’ (Hecl 8) of the country’s patriarchal generation, a Victorian-age generation that had previously oppressed any major outbreak of youthful spirit, and the band’s lyrics sometimes reflected the social revolution of the Swinging Sixties. In ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ for instance, a narrative song from the album ‘Revolver’(1966), Paul McCartney sings about a spinster who has a ‘face that she keeps in a jar by the door,’ and he challenges Eleanor Rigby’s conceit, a characteristic stereotypical of the prudish Victorian period[6], pointedly asking: ‘Who is it for?’

By 1964, when the Beatles were enrapturing American teenagers into fits of euphoria as they embarked on the US, the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, then 22 years-old, also broke into the country’s music industry, an artist who successfully used the influence of his folk-inspired music as a vehicle for societal change, notably the US Civil Rights Movement. His many protest songs, such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’[7] became some of the movement’s most famous anthems, successfully capturing the growing frustrations of the United States’ repressed African-American population. With Dylan publicly requesting that senators and politicians ‘please heed the call (for racial equality)’ in another celebrated Civil Rights anthem, ‘The Times They Are a-Changing,’ the movement instigated the passing of several crucial, society-changing laws (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965). These laws paved the way for African-Americans’ improved social freedom, granting them a new opportunity for self-expression without fear of punishment for doing so. Inevitably, perhaps due to the fact it was so influential during their determined fight against racial prejudice, one of the primary means through which they expressed themselves following the Civil Rights movement was music – particularly adolescents. During the 1970s, originating from African-American communities within New York such as the Bronx and Brooklyn, rap music emerged as an important part of the hip hop sub-culture that empowered young members of its community with ‘a mode of alternative cultural style’ and thus ‘a potent form of cultural identity’ (Best &amp; Kellner Enculturation). However, with the arrival of Run-D.M.C, De La Soul and MC Hammer – some of the most critically and commercially successful hip-hop acts of the 20th century (who were all young men when they emerged onto the hip hop scene), the late 1980s was the period in which rap music’s popularity truly began to prosper. De La Soul’s debut album, ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ (1989), was described by some critics as a ‘hip hop masterpiece’ (Serilla 3); then it was voted ‘Album of the Year’ (De La Soul) by NME magazine – an award that arguably marked the breakthrough of young African-Americans’ music into the popular music industry just decades after the Civil Rights Act was passed.

The power of contemporary music in the UK:

Whether it is rock and roll, folk, pop or hip-hop, therefore, music has consistently been a changeable force for young people in the modern world. Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Bob Dylan demonstrate how music can inspire change among adolescents. As 17 year-old Mark Riviera says: ‘popular opinion controlled my ideas until I heard Bob Dylan sing, “Gonna change my way of thinking/ Make myself a different set of rules” (Music That Inspired Us). However, most evident in how young African-Americans channeled their societal freedom into the hip-hop movement, adolescents can equally inspire change in music. With reason, then, one can assume that the same reciprocal relationship between music and society still exists today, subsequently influencing adolescents in a similar fashion to how they have been in the past. Rather than embracing their influence over them, though, some musicians (such as Tulisa Contostavlos and Flo Rida) in the UK’s popular music industry abuse the power their music has granted, advocating feckless behaviour to their adolescent fans through their music. Regardless of whether they do so intentionally or not, Tulisa and Flo Rida both promote binge drinking in their respective singles: ‘Live It Up’ and ‘Club Can’t Handle Me’ – one of the UK’s most dangerous (and common)[8] nightlife activities. In the short term, for instance, it can substantially increases the risk of some heart conditions, damage to the oesophagus and brain damage – with evidence suggesting that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to its effects (Medical 4); and in the long term, a UK study found that binge drinking in adolescence was associated with increased risk of health, social, educational and economic adversity continuing into later adult life. (Medical 4) How, then, do Tulisa and Flo Rida manage to advocate such hazardous behaviour to their listeners, particularly with most of them likely to be adolescents?

By definition of the Oxford English Dictionary, binge drinking is ‘the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time.’ Consequently, there is an unequivocal correlation between the definition of binge drinking and some of the lyrics and video content of Tulisa’s ‘Live It Up,’ the second single taken from her debut album. Throughout the song, Tulisa, a 24 year-old singer-songwriter who originally found fame with the Camden-based hip-hop group N-Dubz, sings on three occasions: ‘put something in your cup/ Too much is not enough,’ a lyric that, along with the song’s opening line: ‘We should pop more champagne this year,’ firmly suggests alcohol is something that can be consumed excessively. The image of a young woman being held upside down as she drinks from the spear of a beer keg then provides evidence of alcohol being consumed in a short period of time. The Urban Dictionary defines this stunt as a Keg Stand: ‘the act of guzzling alcohol in an inverted position in massive quantities, with onlookers cheering.’ It also explains why the young girl, who does indeed appear to be surrounded by cheering onlookers, is upturned in the video: ‘there is a common myth that by being positioned upside-down during the consumption of beer, the alcohol will reach the brain more quickly (though this is anatomically imimpossible given that the beer must reach the stomach first).’ In September 2012, Tulisa described herself as ‘an inspiration for broken Britain (Glennie and Thomas Tulisa pays tribute)’ – yet how can she be an inspiration whilst she advocates such an irresponsible attitude towards alcohol? Her portrayal of binge drinking as a socially acceptable behaviour could have a changeable impact on how adolescents regard alcohol consumption. It might even encourage them to binge drink themselves, a serious issue that already exists: young people in the UK have ‘some of the highest levels of teenage binge drinking, drunkenness and alcohol related problems in Europe (Smithers UK Teenagers).’ By singing ‘put something in your cup/ Too much (alcohol) is not enough,’ Tulisa is promoting a serious societal issue among adolescents, therefore.As one mother of a teenage boy says: ‘Tulisa has the enviable power to promote the message that you don’t have to drink to have a good time – yet she doesn’t, sadly. Her lyrics and music video (in ‘Live It Up’) are simply not appropriate; nor are they helpful for a parent, like me, who is trying to teach a young adult to drink responsibly.’

Like Tulisa, rap musician Tramar Dillard is one of the most commercially successful artists in the UK’s music industry today, recently outselling even the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West[9] – three giants of the hip-hop industry. More commonly known by his stage name, Flo Rida, he is perhaps the most notable male artist in popular music to advocate binge drinking to adolescents in the UK today. His lyrics and music videos frequently romanticize alcohol in a similar fashion to how gangster rap sometimes romanticizes violence[10], portraying it as a relatively harmless substance that only instigates more enjoyment. In one of his most successful songs, ‘Club Can’t Handle Me,’ the shot of young men and women raising over ten champagne bottles in the air can be seen; then he raps about how he ‘can’t stop now, more shots, let’s go.’ When asked about the video by MTV, Flo Rida responded: ‘if you’ve ever dreamed about having the biggest party of your life, “Club Can’t Handle Me” definitely represents that. (A) lotta energy. (A) lot of diamonds, (and) ice sculptures (Bhansali Flo Rida).’ However, whilst the ice sculptures can be seen for just one fleeting moment at the video’s very beginning, alcohol features on nearly twenty occasions – most of which are shots of young individuals ‘outta control’ dancing with opened bottles of champagne in their hands in a launderette they have invaded – and there is no sign of what is usually considered to be the appropriate vessel out of which to drink champagne, or any other alcohol for that matter: a glass. Like the shot of a young girl performing a Keg Stand in ‘Live It Up,’ then, this scene suggests to its audience that alcohol can be consumed excessively, a substance that has been described by one former government drugs adviser (cite) as the ‘most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin’ – even ‘more harmful than heroin or crack’ (Boseley Alcohol). Ofcom, the UK’s regulatory authority, states it has an official duty ‘with regard to all programmes, including music videos (whatever the genre), to: ensure that under-eighteens are protected; and enforce generally accepted standards…to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion of offensive and/or harmful material (Broadcast 7)’. Surely, then, ‘Club Can’t Handle Me’ and ‘Live It Up,’ both easily accessible and uncensored music videos that suggest binge drinking does not cause violence, unprotected sex[11] and vomiting, are harmful material to children and young members of the public?

In April 2011, Ofcom deemed Flo Rida’s lyric: ‘You want some more baby? I love the way you do it cos you do it so crazy’ in ‘Turn around (5,4,3,2,1) (Broadcast 5)’ as ‘unsuitable’ due to its breaching of rule 1.3[12]  – even though ‘it does not contain an explicit sexual reference, it ‘is ambiguous in its meaning, and is unlikely to be understood by children as specifically referring to sex’ (Protecting 11). In Tulisa’s ‘Live It Up’ and Flo Rida’s ‘Club Can’t Handle Me’, though, there is nothing ambiguous about the implied meaning of the contentious issue they promote. In the lyrics: ‘Put something in your cup/ Too much is not enough’ and ‘Can’t stop now, more shots, let’s go’ they are specifically referring to drinking alcohol – excessively. Ofcom only considered ‘Turn around (5,4,3,2,1)’ as inappropriate because the quoted lyric is ‘combined with clear, sexualised images (for example, women in sexual positions) (Protecting 11)’. In ‘Live It Up’ and ‘Club Can’t Handle Me’, there are two specific instances of clear images that advocate binge drinking: the shot of a young girl performing a Keg Stand, and the scene of young people dancing with opened bottles of champagne in their hands. Both songs’ lyrics and music video content, therefore, surpass what Ofcom regards as inappropriate in other contentious aspects of music videos. There seems, however, to be no significant concern surrounding the issue of inappropriate portrayals of alcohol in most of Ofcom’s recent studies. In August 2011, for example, they researched into parents’ concerns on pre-watershed programming, including music videos. Staggeringly, whilst terms relating to sexually explicit content feature over seventy times, binge drinking is not mentioned once in the 26-page study.

The concern of parents about sexual content in music videos should not be criticized, however. Ofcom should be deservedly applauded for the effort they have made to purge such content from mainstream music videos, too. In this instance, the issue is that parents simply do not seem to be aware of the fact their children are still being exposed to equally disconcerting matters. Excessive amounts of alcohol often appear alongside images of scantily clad individuals in music videos. Parents watching them may not take note of the alcohol, focusing instead on the more noticeable sexual content (which might explain the surprising lack of concern from parents about alcohol abuse in Ofcom’s research). For a child or adolescent who watches the video on several occasions, though, the images of alcohol being consumed excessively may well be inadvertently noted. With a recent survey of secondary school head teachers finding that ‘nearly 70% believed that drinking by pupils increased over the previous 5 years, predominantly in the under 16 age group (Adolescents 4),’ this should be a perturbing notion to parents indeed. However, perhaps a more perturbing notion to consider is: what motivates Tulisa and Flo Rida to advocate binge drinking to adolescents? Though they may not advocate it with the specific intention of causing harm indirectly to adolescents, Tulisa and Flo Rida both sing about binge drinking deliberately; they know the subjects of alcohol and clubbing will appeal to adolescents. Indeed, according to one university student in the UK, 18-21 year olds go out clubbing ‘several times a week,‘ which has also become increasingly popular among party-going under-18s with the introduction of ‘kids’ events at nightclubs across the country[13]. Tulisa and Flo Rida use their advocacy of binge drinking as part of a quasi-marketing strategy, therefore, aiming to maximize the chance of their records being purchased by exploiting popular subjects among young people – their target audience. Of course, neither Tulisa nor Flo Rida are the first musicians to publicise subjects in their songs that will appeal to their listeners – think of how many pop songs that have explored the theme of love throughout the last few decades, for instance. They are some of the first musicians to advocate such dangerous activities as binge drinking to a young audience, though.

Presumably, then, neither Tulisa nor Flo Rida realise the socio-political impact they can have over their young listeners; otherwise they would not promote such feckless behaviour, one that can induce paralysis and comas – even death. Outside of the music industry, though, both Tulisa and Flo Rida use their influence over young people commendably. In April 2012, for example, Tulisa publicly supported the NSPCC’s campaign to raise awareness for self-harm in the younger generation (Children’s Charity), and, after he invested his own time and money into Miami’s National Football League, Flo Rida was described as ‘a real role model’ (Rose Flo Rida Give Back) in August 2012. Clearly, both musicians are indeedaware of their socio-political power over adolescents, making their promotion of binge drinking shamefully inexcusable. The UK’s Institute of Alcohol Studies has singled out young people to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol advertising. It also states that young people ‘live in environments characterized by aggressive and ubiquitous efforts encouraging them to initiate drinking and to drink heavily.’ These statements are unsettlingly similar to ‘Live It Up’ and ‘Club Can’t Handle Me.’ How are their lyrics and music video content not aggressive efforts to encourage young people – vulnerable young people – to initiate heavy drinking? By portraying alcohol as a cool and harmless substance that is fun to consume excessively, they effectively adhere to the same issues that the Institute of Alcohol Studies addresses in alcohol advertisements. Why are they not subsequently subjected to the same rigorous restrictions?

Conclusion: use societal power for positive societal change

Whilst the integrity of Tulisa and Flo Rida should be rightfully questioned after reading this article, neither of them should be vilified by the media for their advocacy of binge drinking to the UK’s adolescents. They have been employed as two specific examples of a serious issue for which several other artists in the UK’s music industry can also be held accountable. In March 2010, for instance, British rapper Tinie Tempah had a UK number one single with ‘Pass Out,’ a song that contained the lyrics: ‘Let’s have a toast, a celebration, get a glass out/ And we can do this until we pass out.’ In October 2011, also, Taio Cruz released a song named ‘Hangover’ (featuring Flo Rida, ironically) in which the British singer-songwriter boasted: ‘I got a hangover…I’ve been drinking too much for sure…I got an empty cup…Pour me some more…And I can drink until I throw up.’ The problem of popular musicians promoting binge drinking to the UK’s young generation extends further than Tulisa and Flo Rida, therefore, and the issue of binge drinking itself extends further than the music industry. ‘Family history of substance abuse,’ ‘Impulsive personality traits’ and ‘Depression or anxiety’ (Nature 13) are some of the individual factors that the Institute of Alcohol Studies believes to cause young people to binge drink. Caused by broken homes and broken communities across all social classes, these factors are governmental matters in which music is of little importance. However, music is one significant aspect of the institute’s final factor: ‘Positive expectancies about the effects of alcohol’ (Nature 14). Each musician that portrays alcohol to be a harmless substance contributes towards this factor, helping to strengthen the ‘culture of intoxication’ (Nature 7) that has emerged among adolescents in the UK over recent years. Today’s musicians in the UK music industry need to realize how much influence their lyrics and music videos have over young people – they should not use it to promote hedonistic and harmful behaviour. Like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the African-American hip-hop movement, they each have the power to invigorate the younger generation. Musicians, therefore, should use their societal power in the same way we are encouraged to drink alcohol: responsibly.

Bibliography & Endnotes