Monday office hours are cancelled. There is a chance I will have to cancel Tuesday’s as well. I’ll keep you informed.
The conversation in class Thursday was superlative– at least in my view– and I’m really gratified that so many people are willing to participate in dialog. I know that some of the things we talk about can seem soporific but we need at least a minimal grounding in the ways that contemporary capitalism has been assessed and criticized. For those who want to go further with this study, you can always consult the Free Books page. A few of the titles listed there such as Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans, and the Very Short Introduction to Neoliberalism offer insights into the political economy of the present for the general reader.
This is what ruling-class privilege sounds like. From AIG CEO Robert Benmosche:
The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that — sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”
Just to be clear: Benmosche is arguing that popular discontent with the unprecedented economic inequality that has characterized the “recovery” from the global recession is like lynching African American men.
It might help to reflect on the subtitle of the course: crime and system. I hope that phrase leads you immediately to another phrase that we’ve encountered, systemic violence. Note that contrary to some of the pop quizzes I graded, the words “systemic crime” have never been used in class (though we have talked about “structural violence” and “systemic violence”). On the other hand, one criticism of the contemporary social formation might be that crime– in an ethical or moral sense rather than a legal one– has been systemized or normalized. For instance, it can and has been argued that finance capitalism’s reliance on purposefully opaque “instruments” such as CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) amounts to a kind of shell game intended to confuse or even defraud investors. Or consider NYC’s “stop and frisk” policy, which in treating young men of color as automatic suspects, is essentially a form of racial profiling that violates basic rights of freedom of movement. Though these examples have some merit they are not, strictly speaking, crimes in the sense of violating the law (though this could change given new judicial rulings).
It’s important not only to be familiar with the key ideas presented in Abbott’s Introduction to Narrative but to be able to utilize them in your writing and thinking. Clearly there is no shortcut in acquiring this knowledge; if you haven’t already done so read the first eleven chapters. There you will find narratological concepts such as closure, narrativity, masterplot, constituent (vs. supplementary) events, character, and many others. One way of preparing for the midterm is to select a few of these terms and apply them to The Talisman. You could even experiment with Abbott’s three modes of interpretation (intentional, symptomatic, adaptive). What would a symptomatic reading of Scott’s novel look like? What would such a reading allow you to say about this historical romance?
This six page excerpt from Shohat and Stam’s Unthinking Eurocentrism could be useful in your study of “the West”:
Citation: Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.
“…our human family is presently experiencing something of a turning point in its own history, if we consider the advances made in various areas. We can only praise the positive achievements which contribute to the authentic welfare of mankind, in fields such as those of health, education and communications. At the same time, we must also acknowledge that the majority of the men and women of our time continue to live daily in situations of insecurity, with dire consequences. Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the our relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. Consequently the financial crisis which we are experiencing makes us forget that its ultimate origin is to be found in a profound human crisis. In the denial of the primacy of human beings! We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.
The worldwide financial and economic crisis seems to highlight their distortions and above all the gravely deficient human perspective, which reduces man to one of his needs alone, namely, consumption. Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have started a throw-away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good. A new, invisible and at times virtual, tyranny is established, one which unilaterally and irremediably imposes its own laws and rules. Moreover, indebtedness and credit distance countries from their real economy and citizens from their real buying power. Added to this, as if it were needed, is widespread corruption and selfish fiscal evasion which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The will to power and of possession has become limitless….
The most effective way to prepare for the midterm is to review the readings to date with some of your classmates. We began with such a (rather cursory) review toward the end of class on Thursday, touching primarily on Vaninskaya’s essay “The Late Victorian Romance Revival.” Now the title of this article alone ought to set us thinking because it contains an example of one of the key concepts we encountered in the Toohey reading. If you’re able to make this link relatively easily, then congratulations.
I think it was Justin who pointed out a perplexing passage on page 154 of The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Here Abbott gestures at some fairly dense ideas about the nature of representation and the status of “‘fictional truth'” (153). At the beginning of the section he notes that readers of fiction or audiences of feature films will sometimes praise a (verbal or visual) text as “true to life” or “so true.” Yet if the text in question is a fiction– if, in other words, it’s made up– how can it be true? Abbott argues that fiction’s “truth of meaning” is of a different order than the truth of fact. Put another way, truth and the facts don’t always coincide. Someone might, for example, hurt the one she loves, but is this the truth of her love? “Yes, I know that I yelled at you,” she might say. “This is a simple fact. But I love you. You know that. You know (the truth of) how I feel.”