Monthly Archives: February 2010

Weekend Update: US military spied on Planned Parenthood

No, really. But we still don’t know why or how. Also, Congress just voted to renew– yet again– the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 or as I call it the UnStrAP AT RIOT Act with the full support of the party of Hope and Change. Hmm, what else? Oh, right: a “controversial” anti-torture provision of an intelligence funding bill has been killed because it’s… uh… “controversial”. Apparently the provision criminalizes things like

waterboarding, “forcing the individual to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner”, beatings, electric shocks, use of dogs, inducing hypothermia or heat injury, stress positions, deprivation of necessary “sleep, food or medical care” and conducting mock executions. (See here.)

As torture enthusiast John Boehner (R-OH) is reported to have said: “It’s time to stop trying to give foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens and to stop persecuting the men and women risking their lives every day to keep our country safe.”  In other words, we ought to keep intact a special category of subhumans (“foreign terrorists”) for whom laws and human rights do not apply. Torture? Yes! Due process? Not so much.

Condition Nervous (HUM415)

Amazing class today. We broke new ground with the sheer number and quality of comments. Monday we’ll continue our discussion of Nervous Conditions and add something to the mix, picking up the theme of development and linking it to the literary genre of the Bildungsroman (pdf). In the meantime you might skim the following blog entry from a prior version of this class:

Also, I mentioned we would be reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the earth. Let’s shoot for next Friday, Mar. 5.  Here’s the link:

Finally, if you look at the course information page then you’ll see that each unit features a few key terms. You can bet some or all of these will appear on the mid-term.

Chimurenga… (HUM415)

… means “struggle” in Shona, the most widely spoken language in the nation which is now called Zimbabwe. Dangarembga’s novel is set during what is often referred to as the Second Chimurenga. It is also the term used for modern Zimbabwean pop based on Shona folk music, which usually features the mbira.

Mbira music:

Chimurenga music by Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited:

Here’s a timeline of Zimbabwe’s historical development from the BBC:

Additional information on Zimbabwe (Rhodesia, Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia) can be found at the first link on the Blogroll, Africa.

Pop Changes (AMS179)

The course information page has been edited to reflect the changes we discussed in class today. Note the grading rubric: some percentages have shifted.

Thursday we discuss Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust. Surely more than a few people have figured out why this particular text might be included in a unit on zombies. That connection will be a subject of discussion next time, as we attempt to take the zombie metaphor into another register.

Group Presentations (AMS179)

A spectacularly lame response to the opportunity to vote on whether to have group presentations or a final exam has led, extraordinarily, to a tie: 3 votes in favor of presentations, 3 against. In this instance I’ll function as the vice-president in a senate vote and cast my lot for group presentations. This means you have 6 weeks to prepare.

Double Feature (AMS179)

The American Nightmare (2000)

A documentary on the Horror genre in the US from the 60s onward featuring interviews with directors such as George Romero, Wes Craven, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg in addition to critical remarks by several top-flight film scholars (Tom Gunning, Carol Clover, et al). A lot of emphasis is placed on the social content of a “new wave” of horror films in the context of the 1960s. Most interesting perhaps are the remarks of FX artist Tom Savini whose tour in Vietnam had a profound influence on his later work in the film industry. There is a powerful case to be made that the horror and violence of the 60s– not only in SE Asia but “at home” found a cinematic correlative in the rise of the slasher flick. Some disturbing images.

Continue reading

The Proposition (AMS179)

In lieu of a final exam we drop Hip Hop Wars and use those 4 class meetings for group presentations.

A maximum of 4 students per group.

Presentations could focus on a theme, genre, “platform”, period or artist. For example, a presentation might consider the automobile in terms of texts (Christine, “Little Deuce Coup”) and their social significance (car culture, the automobile as a symbol of mobility, as an autonomous space for youth). A group could discuss the rise of Hip Hop or of the reality show; the difference between boom box and i-pod; the main features of pop culture in the Cold War; the significance of a particular artist or set of artists (dead pop stars, artists who perform drag or subvert gender roles, etc.). Remember that the basic critical operation is to relate text to context.

Presentations should evince depth and breadth of knowledge and critical savvy, taking up larger issues such as identity (national, racial, gender, etc.), ideology, politics, etc.

Presentations would be limited to about 20-odd minutes. A write-up would be required. Groups could use clips, tracks, powerpoint, handouts, or any other number of aids.

The group receives 1 grade. If, for instance, an A then everyone in the group gets an A.

OR, we go ahead with a final exam consisting of identification and short essays sections covering materials addressed in class after the midterm.

Remember to vote by 9 pm Monday Feb. 22.