For the Midterm (HUM415)

Probably the most effective way to prepare for the midterm would be to review the course information page and look over the blog entries I’ve posted so far. While the latter don’t always cover everything that was said in class, they do address most of the major themes we’ve discussed.

The midterm will consist of an identification section and a short essay question. Open book/ closed note (&  pdf).

We began the course with Raymond Williams’s etymological definition of Culture. In addition to the three primary meanings of Culture as it is presently used, I specified that Culture concerns text, value and practice. In its broadest sense– and here is a definition that is not without its own set of problems– Culture can mean simply “human activity.” That this sense of the term seems reasonably says something about the status of Culture itself in the contemporary period. As Jameson argues, Culture has moved to the very center of economic life. Culture is not only a space of socialization and identity-formation, but the source of capital accumulation.

Jameson’s essay (the second, shorter version) is also concerned with the evaporation of history in Postmodernism. As a critical concept, he writes, “the postmodern [is] an attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” This absence of history leads ultimately to the endless present of late capitalism. We can foresee perhaps that technology will advance, that fashions will change, but how many of us can imagine a social and economic order significantly different from the one that exists now? Or consider the way that pastiche converts history into a cluster of disconnected images, sound bytes, place names, and figures. The Civil Rights Movement, to use an example from the recent past, is reduced to “I have a dream”; police dogs; and young bodies firehosed from Southern sidewalks fast forwarding to Obama’s inauguration. Is what I’ve just described history or does it more closely resemble a commercial?

I think the prompts for the identification section will be familiar. Remember that in addition to noting a title and author, you’re expected to reflect on the significance of the quote/term/character.

Should I have the opportunity I’ll post another entry regarding the midterm.