FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   Log inLog in   RegisterRegister
Fie, fie, how franticly I square my talk!
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.    Zwol.org Forum Index -> Morning Improv
Previous: PostWho the heck is Morrie Duncan?? Next: PostParallelograms Revenge  
Author Message
nihon
Forum Member


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 15
Location: Udine, Italy

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2002 6:40 pm    Post subject: Fie, fie, how franticly I square my talk! Reply with quote

I'm obliged to set a link to Edwin Abbott's (1838-1926)Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.
Want to deepen your knowledge about squares and circles? Just one click away.
GREG
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Josiah Rowe
Regular Poster


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Cheshire, CT USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Flatland is geometrically and philosophically fascinating, but its sexual politics are utterly repugnant. The two-dimensional society Abbot creates is hierarchical, with shapes with more sides being higher up the social ladder. Triangles are laborers, squares are middle-class, polygons are rulers and priests, IIRC. But all the shapes mentioned above are males. All females are extremely pointy isosceles triangles: as close as an enclosed figure can get to having only two sides, or being one-dimensional. There's other offensive stuff there too, but that's what I remember from having read the book 15-odd years ago.

(Of course, the idea of a square or triangle having gender at all is ultimately pretty silly if you're trying to envision a 2-dimensional world "realistically". Scott's little parable is a different matter entirely.)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Aris Katsaris
Forum Member


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Josiah Rowe wrote:
Flatland is geometrically and philosophically fascinating, but its sexual politics are utterly repugnant. The two-dimensional society Abbot creates is hierarchical, with shapes with more sides being higher up the social ladder. Triangles are laborers, squares are middle-class, polygons are rulers and priests, IIRC. But all the shapes mentioned above are males. All females are extremely pointy isosceles triangles: as close as an enclosed figure can get to having only two sides, or being one-dimensional. There's other offensive stuff there too, but that's what I remember from having read the book 15-odd years ago.


Do you consider it offensive to portray in fiction any hierarchical society with different (or even plain wrong) standards? Or do you mean that the author (not The Square but the real-life author) seems to like such a society?

Or is the portrayal of an offensive discriminating world (or for that matter an offensive viewpoint) itself offensive? I can't agree with that.

Mind you, I've only started reading Flatland myself.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Tailsteak
Frequent Poster


Joined: 23 Oct 2001
Posts: 98
Location: London, Ontario

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 11:19 am    Post subject: Inferiority Reply with quote

Remember, these aren't human. The female lines are legitimately intellectually inferior. It's not a matter of oppression-- their females are genuinely dumber and more unstable than their males.

Is discrimination wrong in that case? Sure, it's a bad thing for us humans, who have biological sexual equality, but who's to say that that's a universal standard?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Dr. Empirical
Guest





PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 11:44 am    Post subject: The work reflects on the creator Reply with quote

This is an interesting discussion. It's true that Flatland depicts a world in which the closer one is to round, the wiser and smarter one becomes. As long, pointy triangles, women are unintelligent and emotionally unstable. Thus, in the society depicted, a social hierarchy based on one's angles is justified.

However, I've always thought that the book reflected the author's personal beliefs. The superiority of certain people is self-evident, and society should reflect this. One can tell by looking that certain people are fit only to be laborers.

So viewing the book as just a book, there's nothing wrong with it any more than there's anything wrong with a science fiction world ruled by say, dragons.

The difficulty in Flatland come from the way the views expressed seem to reflect the views of the writer.

Perhaps I'm misjudging Mr. Abbott. I don't know anything about him except that he wrote Flatland. But the way the he depicts this society suggests he approves of it a bit too much.
Back to top
nihon
Forum Member


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 15
Location: Udine, Italy

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 4:25 pm    Post subject: More angles Reply with quote

Nevertheless in Flatland Rounds don't demonstrate to be wiser than the humble Square-writer. They just show to have the Power and the Culture.
Triangles, and Lines, are undoubtedly different from them in appearance. They are as different as Coloured and Women from male WASP's, and in the XIX century (and hard to forget until the XX) being a male WASP meant to look superior and to be educated as superior...
Was Abbot's novel reflecting just the beliefs of his society, implying that a square can be wiser than a round, or was Abbott believing that too?

GG
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Josiah Rowe
Regular Poster


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Cheshire, CT USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like Dr. Empirical, I always assumed that the story reflected the author's views, that a certain hierarchical nature to society was natural and that in that society women would naturally be at the bottom. My reading was that Abbot deliberately constructed a society in which females were intellectually inferior and emotionally unstable in order to support his views that this was the case in the real world. I'm open to other readings, if anyone can provide textual evidence against that interpretation. As I said, it's been about 15 years since I read Flatland.

I think that there's nothing wrong with the portrayal of an unjust society in fiction, but there should be either a viewpoint character capable of criticizing the unjust society, or the satire should be clear enough that the audience can be the viewpoint character. I think the default reading of any text is authorial approval, unless there's some reason to think otherwise. If a text shows something that is morally repugnant, it should allow a reaction from the audience that says, "this is morally repugnant". I don't recall any such allowance in Flatland, where the portrayal of females never rises above the level of a sexist joke.

Tailsteak, the problem is not with the treatment of the (unarguably inferior) females in the story. The problem is with the authorial construction of a society in which female inferiority is unarguable, without any explicit or implicit criticism of that society.[/i]
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jack Masters
Consistant Poster


Joined: 04 Jun 2001
Posts: 181

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Amazon.com review says it's a satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England. This was my understanding as well.
_________________
House of Stairs
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address Yahoo Messenger MSN Messenger
Josiah Rowe
Regular Poster


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Cheshire, CT USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nihon said:
Quote:
Nevertheless in Flatland Rounds don't demonstrate to be wiser than the humble Square-writer. They just show to have the Power and the Culture.
Triangles, and Lines, are undoubtedly different from them in appearance. They are as different as Coloured and Women from male WASP's, and in the XIX century (and hard to forget until the XX) being a male WASP meant to look superior and to be educated as superior...
Was Abbot's novel reflecting just the beliefs of his society, implying that a square can be wiser than a round, or was Abbott believing that too?
Nihon, it's hard for me to answer that unless I re-read the book, which I suppose I could do (it's not that long). But I don't recall anything in the novel to suggest that a female was capable of being educated, etc. True, the Square eventually knows more than the polygons who rule him; but is that due to his nature, or due to his experience, in his encounters with other dimensions?

Also, IIRC in the 2D society it was possible for a triangle to become a square, for a square to become a pentagon. But once a Line, always a Line. The differences between (male) triangles, squares, pentagons, etc. seem like differences of degree, while the differences between male and female seem like differences of kind. If those are merely differences, without either being superior (as is the case in the real world), that's fine. But if those differences are functions of intrinsic inferiority and superiority, that's not fine.

I'm sounding awfully strident here. I know it's just a story. But I remember being pretty pissed off when I read the story, looking for a mathematical fantasy and finding a mysogynist's fantasy.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Josiah Rowe
Regular Poster


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Cheshire, CT USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jack Masters wrote:
The Amazon.com review says it's a satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England. This was my understanding as well.
Perhaps the satire just went over my head. I was only 15 when I read it. Maybe I'll give it another shot.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Hans
Guest





PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2002 12:54 am    Post subject: Author's intent Reply with quote

I don't often post messages, but I feel I should give some response to the growing debate over the author's beliefs in Flatland.

Pardon me if I'm a tad wordy here, but it has always seemed to me to be a characteristic of 19th century fiction for the narrator to speak of his own personal views regarding a subject rather than regurgitate the views held by the author. The more I study Flatland, the more I find to suggest the author had a somewhat different social viewpoint from that of the square.

Whereas there are many clues in the text to suggest that the social heirarchy is arbitrarily desgnated by those in absolute power - the circles - I believe one segment of dialogue sums up the author's viewpoints subtly, yet effectively.

When the square is removed from his reality into three dimensions by the sphere, and sees it laid out before him, he is inclined to think of the sphere as a God, to which the sphere - arguably the most enlightened character in the book - responds:

Quote:


"...If a pick-pocket or a cut-throat of our country can see everything that is in your country, surely that is no reason why the pick-pocket or cut-throat should be accepted by you as a God. This omnividence, as you call it-- . . . . --Does it make you more just, more merciful, less selfish, more loving? Not in the least. Then how does it make you more divine?"


To which the square immediately responds:

Quote:


"'More merciful? More loving?' But these are the qualities of women!"


Think about it...
Back to top
Josiah Rowe
Regular Poster


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Cheshire, CT USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2002 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair enough.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Aris Katsaris
Forum Member


Joined: 03 Apr 2002
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2002 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Josiah Rowe wrote:
I'm sounding awfully strident here. I know it's just a story. But I remember being pretty pissed off when I read the story, looking for a mathematical fantasy and finding a mysogynist's fantasy.


I've now read pretty much all of Flatland, and I can't agree with you here at all... For starters is it a "mysogynist's fantasy" that women are physically so much more powerful than men? In Flatland because of their needle-like shape they were used as warriors who could turn themselves invisible at will. Because of their sharpness of their points they could kill far more easily than any man could, and hide themselves better than any man could either.

Ofcourse that very shape which makes them so strong at the same time leaves them little room for a brain. But "brainless though strong" isn't a stereotype of women, either way.

I'll also point out that the narrator is *imprisoned* by said society just because he wanted to tell the truth about the Three dimensions to people... Other soldiers and public servants are killed or imprisoned just because they happened to be witnesses to a "miracle" that oughtn't leak out to the public.

This is clearly not a society that the author supports, as far as I'm concerned. The spheres claim to value knowledge over compassion and mercy - but at the same time they imprison those who would indeed teach them knowledge.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Danny Calegari
Guest





PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2002 12:06 pm    Post subject: Gender politics in Flatland Reply with quote

Ian Stewart has written a very interesting, well-researched annotation of Flatland, called "The Annotated Flatland"; a review is at

http://www.sciam.com/2002/0402issue/0402reviews1.html

An excerpt from the review:

"As headmaster of the City of London School, Abbott worked to extend the benefits of education to Victorian England's women and lower classes. He was also a sought-after preacher, and in Flatland he satirizes abuses of power and position and urges greater open-mindedness in that role. "

Personally, I tend to agree with this reading. I think the satire is subtle, but definitely present. On the other hand, when I read the book as a teenager, I didn't pick up on it at all. Satire is largely a function of context, and time and distance can muddy our perceptions of the author's intentions. I'm not sure I would like my daughter to read the book without spending some time discussing these issues with her, although I think I would be happy for her to read Ian Stewart's annotated version.

Mathematicians, who have been amongst Abbott's biggest fans - for mathematical reasons - have often had concerns with the gender politics in Flatland, occasionally going so far as to write sequels which explicitly address this issue. For instance, Dionys Burger's "Sphereland", and,
for that matter, Ian Stewart's "Flatterland".
Back to top
Credendo
Forum Member


Joined: 02 Apr 2002
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2002 8:52 pm    Post subject: Social Satire Reply with quote

In fact flatland is usually considered a satire, not just on the male female social positions of the day but also on the scientific oppression of the church during the middle ages. In the "sequel" written by another person whose name eludes me at the moment called "Sphereland" it continues the social satire of the time (the 60's in this case I believe). in a more recent release Flatterland by Ian Stewart, updates the theory but leaves out the social satire. check out a review of it here

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/05/27/1612241&mode=thread


[Edited]

Wow am I an idiot! I didn't even read the post directly above mine.... Sorry mate, didn't mean to resate the affore mentioned!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.    Zwol.org Forum Index -> Morning Improv All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group