Monthly Archives: September 2015

Fully Reified (HUM415)

“Personal branding can be dismissed as a negative thing, due to all the corporate jargon surrounding it,” says Gannon. “But having your own personal brand is the way the world is going. Internet profiles have meant we’re all building online personas; you are selling yourself as a brand every day, even if you’re not aware of it through your cover photo, your opinions, your photos, your friends, your Instagram feed.”

Look it over and we can gossip about it Tuesday.

Gothic Track Assignmnent (HUM202/ HUM303)

By Tuesday, your group ought to have come to a decision about whose track you will present to the class as a whole. That means everyone will need to have uploaded a track to the ilearn forum well in advance of that due date (9/29)

It would be helpful to tag your entry with the name of your group. Put it in the title, for example. In any case, here’s what to do after you’ve uploaded your own response to the prompt:

1. Go through your group’s responses. Reply to all of them to indicate you’ve seen their responses.

2. Rate each response. This is on a ten point scale, so 10 = “amazing, best ever” and 5 = “dude that is so lame”.

It’s important that you actually evaluate your group’s responses. It’s necessary to consider whether a response makes sense in relation to the track. Are the claims made in the response cogent? Is this an informed and persuasive response? Rate the response according to your considered judgement.

The response with the highest rating will be presented to the class by the group as a whole. If there is a tie, the group will have to sort it out.


The Face (HUM415)

Surely you’ve read about Turing Pharmaceuticals, a company that recently acquired rights to a 62 year old drug (Daraprim) and then raised its price by roughly 5000%. The CEO of that company, Martin Shkreli, has been aggressively defending the price rise– which will result in a course of treatment increasing in cost from $1,130 to $63,000– on social media and cable tv. In a matter of a few days a new face to hate has come into existence. Given the circumstances– Shkreli has misrepresented the price gouging as an act of beneficent, even “altruistic” foresight in the search for new weapons in the battle against toxoplasmosis– and photos like the one below, it’s easy to see why.


Media conglomerates, presidential candidates, earnest bloggers, and college professors have piled on, repulsed not only by the sheer, naked greed of the price increase, but by the spectacle of Shkreli’s sneering self-regard. “I’m a capitalist,” he recently explained. “There’s no doubt about that.” And yet it is this very statement, uttered not so much as a justification as a proud point of identification that should cause us to pause. In this respect, at least, Shkreli is correct. When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the readers of Gawker and Salon and Raw Story pelt him with obloquy they effectively support the ideology of capitalism. Such criticisms, as heart-felt and morally sound as they may be, miss the mark by confusing a single, odious individual with a much vaster socio-economic totality thereby effectively granting an alibi to some mythical “kinder, gentler” mode of exchange and exploitation. Capitalism– “the investment of money to make more money” as James Fulcher writes– doesn’t have a face.

First Essay (HUM220)

Here is the prompt for your first paper. Check the course information page for the length requirement and due date, and consult the Paper Guidelines page above for other pertinent information such as formatting.

Several of our readings define the gothic. Carefully read the articles by Eagleton, Armstrong, and Aiken and Nick Groom’s introduction in order to discuss the ways that The Castle of Otranto assembles (what will become) gothic conventions to produce a fictive atmosphere. What formal elements (character, action, imagery, etc.) does Walpole use to create the novel’s tone? What themes and motifs does he employ? What is Walpole’s version of gothic and how does it work?

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The Gothic Track Assignment (HUM220/HUM303)

I haven’t worked out how to post a youtube video to ilearn forum yet. I’ll need to look into that on Monday. In the meantime here’s a model for what I’m now calling the Gothic Track assignment. The idea is that everyone posts and everyone evaluates. We’ll talk in class next week about the practicalities associated with all this.

“A Forest”

This track from The Cure’s 1980 album Seventeen Seconds is easily one of the band’s most famous songs. Its popularity may have something to do with with simplicity of the lyrics and the spareness of instrumentation, which allow room for an audience to use its imagination. At the lower end of the song the bass and keyboards maintain a dark, reverberating tone, which contrasts with Robert Smith’s vocals and jangly guitar. The overall effect– the atmosphere of the track– is mysterious, compulsive, and, apparently, doomed. In the final moments of the song the bass evokes the heartbeat of someone alone and vulnerable. Abandoned by the other instruments, the bass line ends in a small burst of faster notes. Then silence.

The lyrics resonate so powerfully because they seem to be drawn from the vocabulary of fairy tales and ghost stories. Their very generality– the absence of peculiar or notable details– is what gives them psychological force:

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