Monthly Archives: February 2013

Saskia Sassen on Surveillance (HUM415/ HUM 425)

Here’s a short opinion piece by Saskia Sassen, a sociologist teaching at Columbia University and author of several books (The Global City, Globalization and Its Discontents, etc.) that raises the issue of the relationship between drone warfare, the decline of the “liberal state,” and state surveillance. HUM425 students might find it of interest for its claims about visuality and power, while HUM415 students might be intrigued by her assessment of the contemporary political scene.

Common Sense 2 (HUM303/HUM415/HUM425/HUM470)

“It is precisely its ‘spontaneous’ quality, its transparency, its ‘naturalness,’ its refusal to be made to examine the premises on which it is founded, its resistance to change and to correction, its effect of instant recognition, and the closed circle in which it moves which makes common sense, at one and the same time, ‘spontaneous,’ ideological and unconscious. You cannot learn, through common sense, how things are: you can only discover where they fit into the existing scheme of things. In this way, its very taken-for-grantedness is what establishes it as a medium in which its own premises and presuppositions are being rendered invisible by its apparent transparency.”

— Stuart Hall, “Culture, the Media, and the ‘Ideological Effect'” (pdf)

Film Noir Assignment (HUM425)

By 2/26 I want everyone to have watched one “classic era” (1940-1959) film noir. Some possibilities are listed on the course information page. You could also consult Eddie Muller’s “Top 25 Noir Films.” Some of these titles are available streaming on Netflix (see below– you can also consult Netflix’s “Film Noir” category) , though other resources include the SFSU library and your local branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

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Paper One (HUM303/ HUM415/ HUM425/ HUM470)

By Monday evening I will have paper prompts posted for 303, 415, 425, and 470. Heads up: the prompt will not be narrowly circumscribed, but will leave room for the writer to develop her own scholarly perspective based on 1) key concepts 2) primary texts 3) socio-historical context and/or 4) formal analysis. Using the critical vocabulary we’ve been building since the first day of class, the writer will be expected to analyze one or more texts in light of the “project” of the course (see the relevant course information page).

If you are motivated to do so, please send me an email expressing your preliminary thoughts, interests, possible focus, etc. In any case, I strongly advise you to begin the writing process. This may mean reading those assignments you might have missed. Having a discussion with a classmate about key concepts. Sitting down with a piece of paper and a pen and simply listing ideas or impressions pertinent to the course. The earlier you begin the process, the more developed your final product will be. Remember: the 1st paper constitutes one-fifth of your final grade. Any questions? Please direct them to the comments field of this post.

Self-Portrait in Pajamas, Priory Hospital (HUM470)

I’ve been prone to thinking visually so far this semester, largely because I’m teaching HUM 425: Thought and Image. With that in mind, it occurs to me that while we’ve been discussing Life Narrative we haven’t spent much time on the image as a means of self-representation. Some images are narrative– most obviously multiple images in sequence, as with a graphic novel. The core elements of narrative are time, event, and actor(s)– i.e., things happen. What do we do then with an image such as “Self-Portrait in Pajamas, Priory Hospital” (2002) by US American photographer Nan Goldin? Is there an autobiographical story here?


A la conquête du pôle (HUM303)

Conquest of the Pole

Georges Méliès’s A la conquête du pôle (The Conquest of the Pole), a 1912 short film, focuses on the north rather than the south. It also includes a flying machine and some kind of Ice Giant, so there’s not much chance it has anything to do with Poe’s Pym. But the visuals are really remarkable, particularly the scenery. Note that by the time Méliès’s film was produced Peary had already reached the geographical North Pole in 1909 and Amundsen had arrived at the South Pole in 1911. The link above is subtitled in English. The youtube clip below is not.

Changing Same (HUM415)

I realize that on Thursday I said I might be tweaking the reading schedule given the fact that so few of the class had actually made their way through the Hall chapter. Against all common sense, I’ve decided to keep the schedule intact with some minor changes, primarily because the work we do in the next few weeks is absolutely integral to the first paper, which is now due Tuesday Mar. 5th. This week won’t change. The last class of Week Four and the first class of Week Five, however, will be lighter in terms of reading, as we’ll be focusing solely on Havoc, In Its Third Year. Also, and this is crucial, the assignment under a given date indicates what is due for the NEXT class meeting. Any questions? Please address them to the comment section of this post.