Monthly Archives: October 2015

Essay 2 Prompts REVISED (HUM303)


I. The Golem: A Symptomatic Reading

Produce an interpretation of The Golem as a text which 1) is a symptom of its cultural-historical context and 2) operates within or alongside a gothic mode or register. In your essay be sure to use specific narratological concepts taken from Abbott which you are in command of and are perfectly suited to your project.

Consult the humanities database for journal articles and the catalog for books, including e-books which allow you to research in your pajamas at home. As a general rule of thumb for writing academic essays, there should be no source in your Works Cited page (note the plural form) with a .com in its information.

In the course of addressing the primary issues above, you may consider any of the following questions.

What makes Meyrink’s novel modernist? As what has been called a work of Expressionist fiction how might it relate to Expressionist film texts such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? or the work of visual artists such as Hugo Steiner-Prag? Are there thematic or methodological parallels between the Gothic and Expressionism?

II.The Haunting of Hill House: Adaptation

There are two film versions of The Haunting of Hill House, both of which are titled The Haunting. Consider the differences between either/both of them and their source-text, Shirley Jackson’s novel. How does the act of adaptation change your reception of the story? It’s clear enough that reading a book and screening a film are very different activities, but both of them are also narrative experiences. Are there differences in elements of the narrative discourse such as plot, focalization, etc. which ultimately influence the story? What is added or subtracted in the process of adaptation?

III. The Haunting of Hill House: Intertext

Kristeva’s concept of the intertext, as described by Abbott, is fairly capacious. Intertextuality, he writes, signifies “a pre-existing cultural web of expressive forms” (101). [And please note the preceding sentence: it uses a correct in-text cite and blends the frame with the actual quote.] Every text thus floats in a sea of other texts, though the relationship between them need not be conscious or intentional. A text’s direct, purposeful reference to another text, allusion, can be seen as a kind of intertextuality, but those two terms are not identical. In The Haunting of Hill House there are obvious allusions, including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The novel also resonates within a network of other narratives by virtue of its story and narrative discourse. Explain which texts are most suited to a particular reading of THHH. Are there certain cruxes in the novel which are resolved (or complicated) in light of its intertextual debts? How does elaborating THHH‘s intertextual environment (habitat?) influence your reading of it?

IV. Open Topic: The Golem or The Haunting of Hill House or both.

This topic requires instructor approval. Submit a developed, grammatically flawless proposal for your paper to me via email. It is expected that your essay will use secondary materials from the course readings including The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative.

The paper is due Nov. 16 (hard copy in class, ecopy to ilearn). If you would like to discuss this deadline please email me.



Schedule Changes (HUM415)

I’ve tidied up the schedule for the final five class meetings. You’ll note, I hope, that the assignment for next week, 11/3, consists entirely of readings that were already assigned.

  1. Holmqvist, The Unit
  2. Hawkes, Chs. 6-7
  3. Debord, “The Commodity as Spectacle”
  4. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control”
  5. IPC, “We Are All Very Anxious”

I want to revisit Hawkes, touch upon Debord and Delueze, discuss “We Are All Very Anxious,” and wrap The Unit. I expect that you will bring hard copies of all of these texts. This is not a suggestion; it is a requirement. In addition, 3 groups will be presenting their Film Analysis Assignments.

As you read Holmqvist’s novel look for the kinds of things we discussed in class: formal techniques, the narrative “focus,” and any commentary– explicit or implicit– on social and economic matters. Think about subjects and objects. Bring at least some of the ideas you’ve encountered in previous readings to this particular text. She is sending a message (some of which may be unconscious). What is it? Just how deep can you go? The final three readings– Debord, Deleuze, IPC– are quite short and somewhat dense. Give yourself time to read them carefully. I am going to test you on at least one of them.

The Prioress (HUM303)

I didn’t eat lunch before class today so forgive me if I wandered a bit. I also mistook “The Prioress’s Tale” for “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” It is the Prioress who tells a story about a beautiful, innocent Christian boy who is murdered by Jews. That narrative is one iteration of the Blood Libel (see ).

Here is an extract with standard Modern English interspersing the original Middle English:

551        As I have seyd, thurghout the Juerie
                  As I have said, throughout the Ghetto
552        This litel child, as he cam to and fro,
                  This little child, as he came to and fro,
553        Ful murily than wolde he synge and crie
                  Very merrily then would he sing and cry
554        O Alma redemptoris everemo.
                   Always `O Gracious (mother) of the Redeemer’
555        The swetnesse his herte perced so
                  So pierced his heart the sweetness
556        Of Cristes mooder that, to hire to preye,
                  Of Christ’s mother that, to pray to her,
557        He kan nat stynte of syngyng by the weye.
                  He can not stop singing by the way.

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The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (HUM415)

All of this is posted to a forum on ilearn as well. What follows is a model for the assignment and further instructions.

The opening moments of TPGI remain the clearest in my memory, in part because I’ve screened Carpenter’s They Live so many times. There are a few key phrases Zizek offers that really resonate with me, especially in light of the work we’ve done with Hawkes’s Ideology. They Live, Zizek argues, explores the constitutive presence of “dictatorship in democracy”– the compulsions that underlie our apparently free system– a subject that the Frankfurt School also analyzes with a “sustained tone of horrified fascination” (Hawkes 131). Recall that Adorno locates the source of our unfreedom– what he provocatively terms the “‘totalitarian'” power of capitalist democracy– in commodity fetishism. The fetishization of the products of human labor– their transformation into powers dominating humanity– not only distorts external social relations but is internalized, deforming our subjectivity such that the most intimate aspects of our psychology are subsumed into exchange value (Hawkes 131). Other people thus become interchangeable with objects. This is the principle of equivalence that characterizes our fully reified world, and it is so pervasive it has effectively become invisible. There is no escape because no escape seems necessary, or in Adorno’s phrasing, “‘the prisoner… loves his cell because he has been left nothing else to love'” (qtd. in Hawkes 131).

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