Sunday, April 05, 2009

Presidential Demeanor

Some great observations about the Obamas' visit to London, and what Europe's response to the way the President and First Lady carried themselves suggests about USA-EU relations.

This essay will be useful when teaching students about class (in)visibility (Obama shaking the police officer's hand a 10 Downing Street) and Bourdieu's concept of habitus.
"The other thing that she [Mrs. Obama] rose above was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip: Honey, we shrunk the royal family. If ever we needed a totemic image of the merits of a republic over a monarchy, this was it."

"The truth is that the French have never really got over being dumped at the altar of the “special relationship.” It should have been them. It was after all, the French who gave you the Statue of Liberty and the keys to the Bastille and who think Jerry Lewis is funny. What did the English ever give you? Muffins and a burnt White House."
Joking aside, it's true: the French are unfairly dumped on in the US. I suspect it has a lot to do with military-related issues, e.g. De Gaulle pulling France out of NATO's military (but not political) structure and evicting NATO forces from the country. So, I'll want to supplement this essay with reading about economics and social mobility. Given many Americans' proclivity for ill-informed patriotism, students need to know that it's more likely for a person born poor to move out of poverty in France than it is in the US. 

But as this piece to suggests, America should feel proud about their First Family. 

(Now, if only the Obama administration would listen to Paul Krugman...)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

HUIN305: Week 10

Hello all:

Just a reminder that HUIN305 will be meeting tomorrow, Wednesday March 4, at 10:15.

A number of you are preparing literature reviews and/or annotated bibliographies. Please send these and any and all new material that you have concerning the progress you're making on your projects out by this evening.

I'd like tomorrow's session to run like a true graduate seminar, i.e. with everyone providing comments on and constructive criticism about each other's projects.

For that to happen, you'll need to get your documents circulating in time for everyone to read them. In your email you might include questions or ideas that you'd like us to take up during the meeting. If there are materials to download from the course "My Space" that can't be send as attachments, let us know.

Also, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) website and group. Take a look at some of the project descriptions posted on the site; they might provide useful models or inspiration. As you write your proposals and eventually your research, you might think of this scholarly community, and/or some of the digital humanities sub-groups affiliated with the site, as one of your target audiences. In fact, you might be interested in joining the organization and, once your practical project is nearly compete, posting information about it there.

I suspect the HASTAC network would be pleased to have more members from outside North America, and through the forum you might just make some valuable professional contacts.

Finally, please bring an extra hard copy of your paper for me to keep.

See you in the a.m.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel, 1912-2008

I'd see Studs around the city periodically, out and about at events when he was well into his 90s. He was a progressive force for good and until pretty recently it seemed like he would live forever. Studs was a true patriot, populist, and a genuine journalist, someone who believed in America's egalitarian promise enough to listen, thoughtfully, to everyone - including those who are down and out. It's a shame Studs will miss Obama's victory, since he worked so tirelessly during his 96 years to keep hope alive in America. You won't be forgotten, Studs, especially not in your beloved Chicago.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

French Theory in America


From the late sixties to the end of the twentieth century, a disparate group of French intellectuals greatly influenced Anglo-American arts and culture. Once imported to and disseminated in US universities, philosophical ideas and writing by figures such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari came to exert tremendous force both inside and out of the American academy. Rather quickly, a diverse and radical body of thinking was codified, first as intellectual movements (e.g., structuralism, deconstruction, poststructuralism) and eventually as simply “French theory.”

This course studies the reception of French theory in the US. Our aim will be to understand why and how it became such an integral part of American culture, shaping academic disciplines (especially literary theory, cultural studies, and media studies), sociocultural trends (e.g., identity politics, new historicism), and artistic practices (minimalism, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, surfiction).

In assessing French theory’s American influence, we will consider how it has been interpreted differently in the US and France, trace iterations of significant concepts (différance, discipline, abjection, simulation, minor literature, etc.), and evaluate the inflection of these concepts by US-based literary scholars (e.g., Edward Said, Judith Butler, Stanley Fish, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Walter Benn Michaels, J Hillis Miller, Gayatri Spivak, Fredric Jameson) and writers (Charles Bernstein, Raymond Federman, Shelley Jackson, Lynne Tillman, Gerald Vizenor, David Foster Wallace, Curtis White). Not least, we will speculate about theory’s relevance to twenty-first-century praxes.

Teaching Method: Short lecture followed by moderated seminar discussions and weekly presentations by seminar participants.

Requirements: One class presentation (5 pages), annotated bibliography (10–12 secondary sources), research paper (12–16 pages).

Reading List:
Cusset, Francois. French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States. Trans. Jeff Fort. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.

Derrida, Jacques. Limited Inc. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1988.

Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader. Ed. Paul Rainbow. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Harari, Josué, ed. Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1979.

Leitch, Vincent, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton, 2001.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Old School Professor Asks Students to Think

The Thinker is an inspiring profile of a philosopher at Auburn University who has resisted the imperative to instrumentalize higher education, which is undermining humanities departments and cheapening the value of college degrees. A true practitioner of the liberal arts, Professor Jolley challenges his students, first-year undergraduates included, to think through difficult philosophical problems with him. In the process, his best students learn to do philosophy, which they come to appreciate and understand as a way of living, curiously, in the world, rather than just another subject to be mastered on the way to a degree.