Monthly Archives: January 2013

Contemporary (HUM415)


Defining the contemporary period is an inexact project at best, and what counts as contemporary shifts between disciplines. Historians and philosophers tend to conceive of the period in larger terms: most world histories date the contemporary period as beginning with WWII. Philosophers are even further removed from our present moment and many date contemporary philosophy as beginning in the latter half of the 19th century. These periodizations are further complicated by dictionary definitions of “contemporary”: the Oxford English Dictionary defines “contemporary” as “belonging to the same time, age, or period; living, existing, or occurring together in time.” In this sense of the word, contemporary has more to do with the condition of being contemporaneous. All of us are contemporaries, as are the texts we’ll examine in this course.

Continue reading

Lance Armstrong Sued (HUM470)

Here’s an event tailor-made for teachers of literature. As you may have heard already, given the echo-effect of the internet, Lance Armstrong (and Penguin/ Random House) is being sued by some of his readers, including Rob Stutzman, a former aide to ex-Governor Schwarzenegger. Notably, the lawsuit claims that readers were betrayed by Armstrong because he misrepresented the facts of his life.

“’Although Stutzman does not buy or read many books, he found Armstrong’s book incredibly compelling and recommended the book to several friends,’ the lawsuit said,” according the the LA Times.

While this in itself– Stutzman’s confessed semi-literacy– might be shocking, the issue at hand is even more significant because it concerns (money aside) the status of truth in auto/biographical narrative.

Stutzman, et al complain that Armstrong’s books– because they were sold as memoirs– implicitly promised to represent the truth. Having been denied– even defrauded of– the truth-content they paid for, these readers believe they deserve some kind of compensation.

An obvious question for students of auto/biography is, “What exactly do you mean by the truth?”