Monthly Archives: March 2015


An essay by Colson Whitehead (Zone One, John Henry Days, etc.) published in the NY Times.

You will recall the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. The Scorpion needs a ride across the river. The waters are rising on account of climate change, or perhaps he has been priced out of his burrow, who knows? The exact reason is lost in the fog of pre-­modernity. The Frog is afraid that the Scorpion will sting him, but his would-­be passenger reassures him that they would both die if that happened. That would be crazy. Sure enough, halfway across, the Scorpion stings the Frog. Just before they drown, the Scorpion says, “Aren’t you going ask why I did that?” And the Frog croaks, “You do you.”

We don’t all partake of the same slang menu — you say “pop,” I say “soda,” and we’ll all get properly sorted on Judgment Day. Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize “You do you” and “Do you” as contemporary versions of that life-­affirming chestnut “Just be yourself.” It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy.

You’ve also come across that expression’s siblings, like the defensive, arms-­crossed “Haters gonna hate” or the perpetually shrugging “It is what it is.” Like black holes, they are inviolable. All criticism is destroyed when it hits the horizon of their circular logic, and not even light can escape their immense gravity. In a world where the selfie has become our dominant art form, tautological phrases like “You do you” and its tribe provide a philosophical scaffolding for our ever-­evolving, ever more complicated narcissism.

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Extra (HUM303)

If you want to take advantage of the astonishing offer made in class today here are the details again:

2-3 pages according to guidelines page of this blog

How does your 2nd play compare with RT? Think in terms of narrative discourse (plotting, diction, imagery, motif) and theme.

Due in class 4/2 hard copy.

Some Notes (HUM303)

In order for there to be a self-conscious genre of crime fiction there must be a social foundation in the form of a judicial/penal system. Even so, there are modern works of fiction featuring crimes and criminals that are generally not considered to be crime fiction. In the past, the distinction between these two forms– Zola’s Therese Raquin, say, and a John Grisham thriller– was ascribed to “literariness.” By definition, aesthetically accomplished texts did not fall into the category of mass-produced “entertainments” (as Graham Greene called his less “serious” novels) even if the scale of publishing operations was the same for both. Since the 1960s in particular, and with the advent of Modernism more generally such distinctions are no longer creditable.

All of the preceding is a way of thinking about the vexed issue of genre and questions of reception. The most useful critical commonplace concerning genre is that it functions less as a container encompassing various texts sharing specific (thematic, formal, production-related) features and more as  a spectrum of possible iterations and performances which always risk overspilling generic boundaries. (I.e., genres were made to be broken.) The question of genre– and even that genre is a question at all– indicates a specific stage (too teleological?) of socio-cultural development.

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Black Power Dialectics (HUM415)

Note that this clip is prefaced with a commercial. Does that mean consumer capitalism has won? That it contains the seeds of its own destruction?

In any case, consider these words:

The course of revolution is 360 degrees.

Understand the cycle that never ends.

Understand the beginning to be the end and nothing

in between but space and time that I make or you make

to relate or not to relate to the world outside my mind, your mind.

Speak not of revolution until you are willing to eat rats to survive.

What can you do with these lyrics?