Monthly Archives: February 2012

TPG (HUM225)

I’m having difficulty uploading the audio file from Thursday’s lecture, so hopefully you took scrupulous notes on our discussion of Thousand Pieces of Gold. The main focus of Thursday’s class, you’ll recall, was the issue of economy. McCunn represents various forms of economic activity and organization throughout TPG, from the economic deprivation of agrarian northern China to the economy of sexual exploitation in San Francisco, to the speculative economies of mining and gambling in Warrens. By examining the trope of that which glitters, gleams, flashes, and shines we established that value takes different forms and is highly unstable. Eyes that glitter, for example, suggest greed or an excess of desire. Gold itself functions as a metaphor for cultural or moral values, or gestures at themes of possibility and enterprise. This sort of formal reading– where patterns of signification are examined– allows us to penetrate beyond the text’s literal dimension and assess its symbolic content.

Household Management (HUM225)

The etymology of the term “economy” comes from a compound of two Greek words, oikos (house) + nemein (management). In its root form, then, economy means household management.

Thursday we need to think about economy, in particular Lalu/Polly’s role within the various economies that are present in the novel.

Consider Part One. There is an economy at work in northern China, one characterized by deprivation and crime. Bandits, who are themselves from the lowest classes of society, prey on impoverished peasants. Living so close to the margins of subsistence, there is scarcely any possibility of advancement. In such a set of conditions, Lalu herself is one of the only salable articles to be found. She becomes a commodity.

Slideshow Notes/ Lecture Audio (HUM225)

From What is a Novel?:

“To call something ‘realist’ is to confess that it is not the real thing…. Realist art is as much an artifice as any other kind of art…. [R]ealism is calculated contingency. It is the form which seeks to merge itself so thoroughly with the world that its status as art is suppressed. It is as though its representations have become so transparent that we stare straight through them to reality itself. The ultimate representation, so it seems, would be the one which was identical with what it represented. But then, ironically, it would no longer be a representation at all” (10).

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Rights (HUM455)

From the Constitution of Saint-Domingue (1801), written by Toussaint L’Ouverture:

Art. 3.

There cannot exist slaves on this territory, servitude is therein forever abolished. All men are born, live and die free and French.

Art. 4.

All men, regardless of color, are eligible to all employment.

Art. 5.

There shall exist no distinction other than those based on virtue and talent, and other superiority afforded by law in the exercise of a public function. The law is the same for all whether in punishment or in protection.

From the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1793):

1. The aim of society is the common welfare. Government is instituted in order to guarantee to man the enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible rights.

2. These rights are equality, liberty, security, and property.

3. All men are equal by nature and before the law.

4. Law is the free and solemn expression of the general will; it is the same for all, whether it protects or punishes; it can command only what is just and useful to society; it can forbid only what is injurious to it.

5. All citizens are equally eligible to public employments. Free peoples know no other grounds for preference in their elections than virtue and talent.