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The gaze of the zombie

November 5, 2012

Gaze” is a psychoanalytic term:

brought into popular usage by Jacques Lacan to describe the anxious state that comes with the awareness that one can be viewed. The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object. This concept is bound with his theory of the mirror stage, in which a child encountering a mirror realizes that he or she has an external appearance

Also “The Gaze of Orpheus” refers to “the antiquarian Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice”:

Maurice Blanchot’s interpretation or use of the Gaze of Orpheus is in artistic creation. … Blanchot uses the myth to transcribe the creative process.

Geoffrey Sirc uses Orpheus’s moment of violation as argument for creative form in writing versus the standard polished text. Urging the adolescent writer to break free of formal notions of form, Sirc views the journal as the media through which Orpheus yearns for Eurydice. “If the Work is freed of concern, the gaze is transgressive, then we’re clearly not talking about the polished text, especially one oriented dutifully around the tiny truths available through an analysis of middle-brow media” (Sirc 14). Sirc’s primary reference to this is in Kurt Cobain’s Journal’s.

Lacan’s perspective on the gaze of Orpheus is more a matter of desires and yearning. On one hand we have Orpheus gazing towards the underworld, which serves to dissolve the connection between Orpheus and his desire, Eurydice. On the other hand Orpheus’ role in the upper world is to use his creativity and artistic talent to transform his desires into a recreated form.

And in the Independent: “Should you gaze into the eyes of a Zombie?” by Rachel Nuwer of ScienceNOW, noting that eye-tracking software finds humans participants fixate on eyes in two-dimensional dungeon’s and dragons monster drawings:

cognitive scientist Alan Kingstone, of the University of British Columbia, loved it. The father-son team got to work, with Kingstone recruiting university students for the experiment and Levy combing the Web for the best examples of D&D beings. He selected 36 photos of Dungeon & Dragon humans, humanoids (nonhumans that still have eyes in the middle of their faces), and monsters (creatures with eyes positioned elsewhere). Levy set up eye-tracker equipment called Eyelink 1000 for 22 student participants, who viewed each of the character photos for 5 seconds.

Kingstone and co-author Tom Foulsham at the University of Essex in Colchester, England, analyzed the eye-tracking data, as they reported Tuesday in Biology Letters. They found that participants first tended to look at the middle of the image, but then tended to fixate on the eyes, regardless of whether the eyes were on the head or elsewhere.

“This paper makes the point explicitly that no, these brain areas are really interested in processing the eyes, not the center of the head,” Kingstone says. The human brain’s preference for eyes may have evolved as a way for people to communicate quickly and quietly and to convey simple information about a person’s age, health, and emotions, he hypothesizes.

Nuwer, also relates this research to autism and suggests differences in eye-contact amongst autistics.

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