Monthly Archives: March 2011

Cantu, not Canclini (HUM470)

The author of Canicula is named Norma Cantu, right? But the whole class I referred to her as Canclini, because of some kind of a brainspasm in which Nestor Canclini, an Argentinean anthropologist, transmuted into our autobiographer.

For next class consider Cantu’s own description of her text as an autoethnobiography. We can link this to Eric’s question about a possible language in which there was no first person singular, no ‘I’: in speaking for herself and about her family, Cantu suggests she is speaking for a whole community. It’s not clear to me that this sort of move is “representative” in the same way that Frederick Douglass assumed the mantle of the enslaved, narrating his own experience as typical of the lives of many slaves (even as he acknowledged that, all things considered, he had it fairly good in comparison with others. I think we can agree that had FD experienced slavery at its worst– say, “down the river” in Georgia or in the West Indies for that matter– he wouldn’t have been in a position to write a book much less learn how to read one).

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George Eliot Doc (HUM303)

A BBC documentary, George Eliot: A Scandalous Life (2002), is available on Films on Demand at the library website. It will, I think, help with our discussion of The Mill on the Floss. There are also several film adaptations of The Mill on the Floss. With any luck we’ll screen a few clips from the 1937 version on Thursday.

Capitalist Realism (HUM415)

We managed to gloss the first four chapters of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, admittedly in somewhat haphazard fashion. On Wednesday we’ll return to those pages, forge ahead into the next 30 pages of the text and, with any luck, screen a few clips from Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.

Check out this quick analysis by Zizek on the film, which includes the concept of anamorphosis*:

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Constructing/Deconstructing (HUM303)

Here are my occasionally cryptic notes on Catherine Belsey’s essay “Constructing the Subject, Deconstructing the Text.” They are in no way an adequate substitute for reading the essay itself. Theory of the sort Belsey writes resists epitomization; I would be hard pressed to convert the arc of her thought into an easily-digested bumper-sticker. Those wishing to understand her work must work themselves.

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The Midterm (HUM470)

The midterm is open book/ closed note/ closed pdf. Being able to identify the way that the various writers present themselves on paper will be helpful, as will knowledge of the key terms we’ve discussed in class. Review the information posted on the course blog and consult your class notes. Remember that we’ve been interested not only in the WHAT of these texts, but the HOW. That is to say, the formal dimensions of each of them have been significant in terms of imagery, diction, plot and– here’s a broad hint– their gaps and omissions.

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Memory/ Citizen Kane (HUM470)

We’ve been talking about memory for a few classes now, specifically in relation to Herbst’s The Starched Blue Skies of Spain. If you’d like to review my initial comments you can find a version of them here:

Go ahead and read the whole post, which also includes remarks on experience, identity and subjectivity (as has already been mentioned, key terms for the study of autobiography).

Recall that today in class we agreed to have screened Citizen Kane by the end of Spring Break. I think by reviewing some clips from that film and discussing them we might come to a deeper understanding of the auto/biographical enterprise and the influence of “platform” on content. That latter issue is one that will reappear in the final weeks of the semester when we discuss Neufeld’s graphic novel AD.

Algeria Unveiled/ Battle of Algiers (HUM415)

The pdf version of Frantz Fanon’s “Algeria Unveiled” posted on the course information page was incomplete. Here is a proper pdf:


The “bombing sequences” we watched in class on Monday:

I’d like us to hold onto the concept of the Floating Signifier, which I think will come in handy as we move along. Here is how Daniel Chandler defines it in his book Semiotics for Beginners:

An ’empty’ or ‘floating signifier’ is variously defined as a signifier with a vague, highly variable, unspecifiable or non-existent signified. Such signifiers mean different things to different people: they may stand for many or even any signifieds; they may mean whatever their interpreters want them to mean. In such a state of radical disconnection between signifier and signified, ‘a sign only means that it means’ (Goldman & Papson 1994, 50).