Midterm Review Part One (415)

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).

The best way to prepare for the midterm is to review the readings to date, preferably with a classmate or three. Pay particular attention to the articles by Hall, Phillips, and Benyahia. These readings are significant in that they address (respectively) the question of neoliberal capitalism, the representation of criminals and criminality across various “scientific” discourses, and methods of formal analysis specific to the crime film. It’s also important to have a thorough understanding of the first novel we read for the course. Knowing the basic contours of GBK‘s story and narrative discourse– and the names of characters– is crucial. You should also be familiar with the ways in which this text advances a social critique. Try using the key concepts discussed by Abbott in The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. If you can formulate a short list of these critical terms and define them then you’re in good shape. Otherwise, revisit the first eleven chapters to make sure that you have a firm grasp of the narratological vocabulary he uses.

I will upload another post about the midterm in the next couple of days.

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