Midterms (HUM303/HUM415/HUM425/HUM455)

NOTE FOR HUM303/ HUM415 students: the midterms have been pushed back to 3/3 (HUM303) and 3/4 (HUM415). I will adjust the reading schedule accordingly.

Note for everyone: if you are concerned that you might have missed a post, drag your cursor to the sidebar on the right side of the blog main page. There is a drop-down menu called “Taxonomy.” In that menu select the name of your course (Cultural Periods and Styles/ Contemporary Culture/ Thought and Image/ The Americas). All of the posts I’ve written will then appear.


The midterm will consist of a list of prompts familiar to those who have attended class regularly and completed the assigned readings.

From a selection of 8 prompts, students will be asked to choose 5. In order to obtain maximum points (10 per prompt) you should

1) identify the origin of the prompt

2) explain its significance

3) attempt to link the prompt to the larger ideas and themes of the course.

The prompts will take the form of

a) characters or specific locales from a primary text

b) key terms

c) quotes.

The goal is to demonstrate knowledge and, crucially, the ability to think synthetically.

In other words, because facts are, in and of themselves, mere dumb things, it is our ability to create compelling and creative connections that really matters.

Here is an example that HUM415 students will recognize:

Prompt: Depressive hedonia

1) Identify: Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

2) Significance: Fisher observes that his students seem to retreat into low-grade pleasures as a result of their alienation. Significantly, he attributes that tendency not to individual psychology, but to a social formation, a social structure, which actively solicits this kind of behavior. The “soft narcosis” of TV, junk food, and marijuana provide a kind of respite from the demands of everyday life under capital. Yet this refuge is illusory; the passivity of the hedonic depressive ensures that her situation will never change.

3) Synthesis: Fisher’s assessment echoes claims made by Hall and Jameson, specifically that what we perceive to be a purely individual matter– our mental health– is in fact profoundly socio-economic in its origin. Jameson’s “schizophrenia” and Hall’s gesture at neoliberalism as the crucible of neoliberal subjectivities collapses the line between the personal and the political. We are subjects constructed by capitalism. The question is, how do we liberate ourselves from this subjection?

(Obviously there’s more to be said because this is potentially a very large topic.)

Note that what I’m looking for is an informed and creative response– a pithy, relatively short paragraph. You’re welcome, of course, to adopt the format of the example above.

Simply identifying the prompt will get you on the board with 3 points out of 10. It’s everything that comes afterwards that will help you to accumulate (like capital?) points.

If you have any practical questions about the midterms (aside from what will be on the test) please send them to the comments field of this post so that everyone can benefit.

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