Just a heads-up: beginning Tuesday we’ll have four class meetings on Frank Norris’s strange novel Vandover and the Brute. My passionate hope is that everybody’ll have that reading completed (including appendices) by Thursday 3/29 if not by Tuesday 3/27. In the meantime I want you all thinking about “the duality of man”– as Sgt. Joker would phrase it. Consider yourself: are you good or bad? What would the EVIL version of yourself look like? Would such a strange doppelgänger— your Dark Twin— simply intensify your own worst traits?
The character of Vandover embodies some of the most disturbing cultural anxieties of the fin-de-siècle (end of the century) era. Among these fears is the eugenicist paranoia that Western Civilization necessarily saps natural vitality, generating cohort after cohort of neurasthenic degenerates. Pay close attention: we have arrived at the moment when a naturalist version of the Gothic has entered the labyrinth of Race– that ultimate social fiction.
Anybody in the mood for another undeclared war?
This photograph recently won an award. More of Armenis’s images from his project Diamond Days can be found here and here.
From Hammer Films ca. 1965. A gawping, strawberry blond Donald Sutherland plays a more vacuous version of Simple Jack alongside Stefanie Powers as the plucky yet oddly anodyne American beauty visiting her dead fiance’s psychotic mother– the inimitable Tallulah Bankhead speaking in a voice seasoned by two million unfiltered cigarettes.
This is interesting: the overlap of culturally specific modes of racial formation and market ideology. One long-term, very damaging effect of the American War in Iraq emerged from efforts to impose a peculiarly USAmerican version of the Nation as a polity paradoxically riven by racio-ethnic allegiances. The paradigm for this political dispensation is pretty clearly a mildly regulated market– ex. quotas are intended to fulfill a representative function without actually having any influence on matters of justice and equality. This, in essence, is what the US means when it bombs people in the interests of Freedom.
Removing Saddam was just a byproduct of another objective: dismantling the Iraqi state and its institutions. That state was replaced with a dysfunctional and corrupt semi-state. We were still filming in Baghdad when L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, announced the formation of the so-called Governing Council in July 2003. The names of its members were each followed by their sect and ethnicity. Many of the Iraqis we spoke to on that day were upset with the institutionalization of an ethno-sectarian quota system. Ethnic and sectarian tensions already existed, but their translation into political currency was toxic. Those unsavory characters on the governing council, most of whom were allies of the United States from the preceding decade, went on to loot the country, making it one of the most corrupt in the world.
Mosul 2006. Credit: Thomas Dworzak.