Wednesday we discussed examples of value in The Financier, particularly with regard to Frank Cowperwood. Emily noted a highly relevant passage on page 148, in which Frank explicitly states his views on actively breaking the law through stealing or some other form of theft. At issue is his belief that it is wrong to steal not for any objective moral reason, but because, ultimately it is inconvenient:
“Cowperwood was an opportunist. And by this time his financial morality had become special and local in its character. He did not think it was wise for any one to steal anything from anybody where the act of taking or profiting was directly and plainly considered stealing. That was unwise– dangerous– hence wrong. There were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”
The midterm will consist of two sections: identification and short (roughly paragraph length) answers. Treat the identification prompts as “knowledge dumps,” in which an understanding of the big themes of the course drawn from reading, lecture, and discussion is demonstrated. Blue books will be required. Any questions? Address them to the comments section of this post.
For Friday’s class:
By comparing and contrasting NC and AINO we can open the door to a conversation about the nature of culture, so to speak, not only in a contemporary context of decolonization and postcoloniality but at a more general level. Thinking carefully about these two novels– in particular their “ideological projects” and the methods they use to realize their goals– can give us insight into just how genre, text, and context interrelate. On Friday, we’ll wrap our 3rd Unit by working in groups to come to some preliminary decisions. If both Kourouma and Dangarembga are engaged in a form of social and political criticism via literary fiction, which work is most successful in its efforts? How so? Using fairly basic formal categories– character, plot, diction, setting, etc.– we’ll discuss these matters, if not to arrive at absolute conclusions then at least in order to cobble together a provisional toolkit.
One notion to keep in mind is the way that a given cultural text works to insert its reader/auditor/viewer/etc. into a particular vantage point. Our sympathies and judgements are always elicited– tacitly or expressly– when we “consume” a cultural text. It’s easiest perhaps to see this in the case of film. Remember the clip we screened from Stander? The formal elements of that sequence worked to give the audience a sense of the complexity of this violent confrontation. We were able to individuate the residents of Soweto, which facilitated our identification with them, even as we were brought close to the title character himself, watching his visceral reaction to events (fear, uncertainty, finally a kind of ecstatic violence) before we ourselves are implicated when Andre Stander “breaks the fourth wall” and looks at us directly. Using this kind of critical orientation, our goal is to see how NC and AINO “locate” their readers within (or without) the worlds those novels represent. Ultimately, I think, we’ll have occasion to think about the ethics of representation.