(I debated whether to post this second to the last paper for Modern/Post-Modern; alas, it seems best to document it here for there will come a day when I shall want a laugh. Intellectual history/philosophy papers should not be written by the novice at 1AM…in fact, this paper was just copy/paste from the Coursera site and I have found there are two major gaffs — can you find them (one is rather embarrassing, using the opposite word in which was intended). The point of the paper was to address Judith Butler’s thoughts on improvisation with that of another “thinker” from the course, who addressed the concept of creativity and self-invention.)
As an aside, one paper left, due in two days. I do not understand the question that needs to be addressed – it would help if I did the readings and watched the lectures. I shall sigh relieved regret when this course is done. It has been enlightening, but three at one time has been time-consuming, especially this one with its papers. MOOCs are receiving a lot of discourse in academia now – discussing relevancy, efficacy, and impact. Personally, after a year of MOOCs, I am ready to start the paperwork to formally apply for an online Masters degree …yes, I am finally open to the possibilities recreating myself despite being forty…
and you, are you still open to the possibilities…?
“….And as regards method, the improviser employs the oldest in music-making…Mankind’s first musical performance couldn’t have been anything other than a free improvisation.” –Derek Bailey
Improvisation is to create something new within the confines of what is known and unknown. One who has the courage to improvise is one who can make their world survivable. Judith Butler points that often this improvisation comes out of necessity in order to act freely within the world on one’s own terms. This is not another Enlightenment, per se, but a step beyond by recognizing the need to converge the biological and the cultural. In the same vein, but two hundred years prior, Charles Baudelaire also saw the need to improvise, to reinvent one’s self, in order to experience the world within the current order of society. Butler and Baudelaire both address the idea of being “open to the possibilities”.
How is it that Butler and Baudelaire can be centuries apart while still echoing the same sentiment? Perhaps, part of this answer resides in the fact that both are addressing a sense of desire to be of the world, but not confined by its constraints. Butler writes, “The fact that desire is not fully determined corresponds with the psychoanalytic understanding that sexuality is never fully captured by any regulation.”  Butler believes that sexuality must remain static in its definition, not to be solely defined by biology or society. “On the contrary, it emerges precisely as an improvisational possibility within a field of constraints.”  The constraints of society must be considered, but for true equality they must not define how a person is identified.
“All which is beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation.” ~ Charles Baudelaire 
Baudelaire often wrote of the importance of beauty. This was not a beauty created by nature, but a beauty created by she who dared to be created. “All that I am saying about nature as an evil counselor in questions of morality, and about reason as the real redemptive and reformative force, may be transported into the order of beauty.” Baudelaire sees ‘true nature’ as ugly, it is only through recreating identity that one can escape, “Art is necessary to correct the natural state of man, which on the physical level is unattractive and on the spiritual level is a state of original sin.” Baudelaire, therefore, championed the idea of creating identity, to be a “dandy”. [on dandism] “Above all else, it is the burning need to create an originality for oneself, a need contained within the exterior limits of convention.”
As stated before, Baudelaire and Butler’s writings address desire. Butler approaches desire from the Hegelian tradition linking desire to recognition. It is only through this recognition that we are then seen as viable humans.  Butler, however, sees a problem with this type of identification because often this recognition as human is restricted by social norms. What happens with the human who defies these norms? Butler states in this week’s video that it is important not to celebrate our differences, but to be open to the possibility of a more inclusive environment where all can be recognized. Butler sees improvisation as imperative, so one does not become victim of norms. Butler wants us to acknowledge the norms, and from that, create an identity. Butler seems to be asking us to be artistic with our own life.
Baudelaire was artistic with his life. He practiced the art of poetry and the art of living creatively. He plunged into the world either as himself or someone else; life was bearable when one recognized the possiblities. As Baudelaire penned in the poem, “Crowds”: “Multitude, solitude: synonymous terms and convertible by the active and creative poet. He who cannot people his solitude, cannot be alone in a busy crowd.” He recognized the freedom of the artist who dared to be a man of the world; to be in the crowd without getting defined by its standards.
 Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender (2004).
Baudelaire, Charles, The Painter of Modern Life, ”In Praise of Make Up” (1863).
 Baudelaire, Charles, The Painter of Modern Life, “The Dandy” (1863).
 Butler, Judith, Undoing Gender (2004).
 Baudelaire, Charles, Spleen of Paris, “Crowds”