By way of introduction

Last fall a friend introduced me to the BBC dramatization of the novel, “North and South,” by Elizabeth Gaskell. I enjoyed it but didn’t think about it much, until another colleague, seeking to comfort me in distress, pushed another copy of it into my hands over the holiday break. I wasn’t going to watch it again, but I did. And I have been watching it almost every day since then. I’ve incorporated it into a class I am teaching.

It’s Richard Armitage, pure and simple, who keeps me glued to the screen. Learning about him has got me surfing the web like crazy, and looking at his other work.

Some days, lately, it’s the possibility of getting to see Mr. Armitage on screen that gets me out of bed.

I’m bothered by this at times, especially because Mr. Armitage is not real in any meaningful sense to me. I won’t ever meet him, and though he has been fairly forthcoming in interviews, one also gets the sense that a great deal is not being said, either because he is trying to preserve a private sphere in the face of millions of women who regularly express their desire to undress him, or because the people interviewing him are dolts. So as much as the actor and his work and his body delight, and as much as one extrapolates from things said or not said in the press, there is a great deal I can’t know, and I replace that lack of knowledge with projection.

The experience of watching Mr. Armitage on screen thus fuses his acting with my own projections about him and the character he is playing. And (or rather, thus), the acting he does has turned into a lens for looking at my own life. Hence the title of the blog.

~ by Servetus on February 26, 2010.

17 Responses to “By way of introduction”

  1. […] a historian, I am a poststructuralist manqué. I have already stated in introducing myself that the main sources for this blog (me, Richard Armitage) are sources only of indeterminacy as far […]

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  2. […] fantasies is therapeutically significant to me; as I said at the very beginning of the blog, looking at Mr. Armitage and his work has become a lens for looking at my life. And as one commentator aptly noted, common sense and practicality are not the only standards for […]

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  3. […] electrifying. She was right on both counts. That this was not the decisive viewing for me — that came in January, 2010 — has mostly to do with the weird suspense of those weeks. Waiting for the hammer to fall […]

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  4. […] Though it may unintentionally repeat some stuff mentioned elsewhere already, this post marks my belated effort not to threadnap from RAFrenzy. Longstanding readers know that one cause of my Armitagemania is an experience of severe over-identification with Mr. Armitage. I began to read press about him and interviews he’s given in January 2010. My perusal of his creative work has been enhanced by this extraneous information, but it’s not just that — it’s that I see so many similarities between our lives. To counter this reaction, I developed a four-level epistemological scheme to remind myself and others what we can reliably know about Richard Armitage based on the information we have. On that scheme (and even though I never published the final post in that series, because I lacked the energy at the time to deal with the controversy I feared), I usually force myself to read between C and D, thus subjecting my identification to a reading against the grain. I was interested in how the reactions to this question lined up based on the questions asked; Nat wanted to know what popped out at readers in response to the piece, a strategy that demanded interpretation of what was important and thus pushed the reader from A to B. RAFrenzy’s commentators were a bit edgier, and she and some of them discussed the response of feeling manipulated and how they felt about it, with the information emerging that the piece was following the generic conventions of a regular feature in the Times in which people are asked to describe their day; the discussion both of generic convention and the awareness of feelings of manipulation  — no matter how people felt about it — pushed many of those readings from B to C and even toward some features of D. I should note that reading at C or D does not constitute an interpretation of Mr. Armitage as a dissimulator, or even anything negative: one can accept happily that little that one perceives about the world based on certain kinds of sources is very reliable. Most of what this feature narrates is entirely of a piece with his previous statements, not all of which have been patently transparent. As I’ve noted, the hide/reveal dynamic at the foundation of pudens depends on most interpreters of a text taking a position between B and C, and the resulting unsettling or provocative uncertainty about the reliability of the interpretations we advance. Individuals will take different stances in this dialectic. Mesmered, notably, prefers opacity, noting that she wants Armitage to remain an enigma. Indeed, many of RAFrenzy’s readers were happy with the information as presented in this feature even as they acknowledged that they were not reading the full picture and being manipulated in line with tropes that mirrored those of the magazines we read as teenagers. In order not to deceive myself about my place as interpreter, I try as much as I can to read at D, but what I say below is a departure from that stance, as it is definitely a B reading. That doesn’t mean the interview isn’t saturated with tropes, both shared cultural ones (“I respect my heritage,” e.g.) and more specific rhetorical patterns typical of Armitage’s statements to the press. I could give a D reading, but I’m exploring the B reading here because the questions it raises are still resonating in my emotions a few days later, particularly after what happened during this work week, and I wonder if historians who read sources like this feature in another century will see them as symptomatic of anything about the mood of our lives. At the same time that I consider this reading sympathetic, I continue to ask myself whether the speculative quality of this kind of writing is entirely fair to Mr. Armitage. It’s certainly too presumptuous. On the other hand, this is my blog, and this summer I was able, finally, to establish for myself that the real Mr. Armitage is not part of its target audience. As I said at the beginning, he’s a text that I interpret to understand my life. […]

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  5. […] this is the first thing I wrote, the first admission I made, on the […]

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  6. […] that job for at least five years. I could not make myself even look at job ads, let alone apply. The decision to give in to Armitagemania — which was really a decision to look closely at my fantasies and see what they were trying […]

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  7. […] decided to go with radical acceptance — not only expressing myself involuntarily, as when I began writing here, or voluntarily, as it developed over the course of the first year, but now enthusiastically. I […]

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  8. […] wanted to participate vicariously in my escapades, was something I never anticipated having happen. I started blogging to vent my fear that I was going crazy. It was naive of me not to realize that there was already a developed Armitageworld out there, but […]

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  9. […] said before then. So I want to remind myself of my purpose here. This is a quote about it, from my self-introduction of February 26, 2010: Some days, lately, it’s the possibility of getting to see Mr. Armitage on […]

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  10. […] in the title of the blog. I knew that my sheer verbiage could overwhelm discussions. Moreover, I wanted to muse about who Richard Armitage might be personally or about his relationships with people we see him with in public. And from the very beginning, I […]

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  11. […] or to conforming to others’ expectations in the way that I used to demand of myself. This blog sprang from my inability to stop thinking about my fantasies and my desire to explore what…; as my therapist said very shortly after I told her that the blog had been born, I was using […]

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  12. […] which seemed like a parable, and the actor, who had made the woman feel alive again, although it was impossible to explain at the beginning. Later, the woman realized that he proved to her that all the pieces of who she had been were still […]

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  13. […] stream every day — a real battle for me, anyway. I really didn’t know what would happen when I started on this journey of blogging about Richard Armitage. I felt helpless, and reanimated, and driven to know, to figure it out — and I gradually […]

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  14. […] him hit me on an unprecedented level. And yet, I always felt that the way Armitage made me feel, to the point of getting me out of bed some days, early on, was a good preoccupation. I was in severe distress when Armitagemania hit, and it sustained me […]

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  15. […] I ever get close to quitting blogging about you, I remember that I still haven’t answered question number 1: why do you have this effect on me? Why are you still the prism through which I am looking at […]

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  16. […] like Samantha in the play, when I started this blog — really an act of self-preservation from the storm of feelings I was experiencing at the time, the flood of inescapable thoughts — I never really envisioned what the consequences could be. Right now I am thinking in […]

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  17. […] I put these numbers from February 26, 2010, here not to attribute any meaning to them except this: that a significant and ever-changing and developing community of fellow fans of Richard Armitage have found it worth their while to read and engage with this blog and me since the dark days of February, 2010, when I started writing it, more or less out of desperation. […]

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