Monthly Archives: June 2020

It is not possible to fail

PROMPT: Based on what you’ve learned about Resilient Course Design, Low Bandwidth Teaching and Trauma-Informed Teaching & Learning in this section and your own experiences with remote teaching in Spring 2020:

1. What is your Plan A for remote teaching in future semesters?

2. Reflect on your Plan A to form a proactive Plan B:

Plan A

I plan to teach asynchronously in the Fall. I’ll need to

1. record 2-3 lectures per unit (there will be 4 major readings constituting the core of 4 units)
2. assign a few complementary documentary/ feature films that can be streamed via the library
3. require weekly discussion assignments
4. administer an open book, time sensitive midterm
5. develop a small range of choices for an academic essay
6.  host IM sessions or zoom office hours once a week
7. craft (optional) blog posts regarding the readings

Plan B
Using a labor-based grading system will allow me to focus on students’ online presence. As my plans are asynchronous and relatively low-bandwidth already, I don’t anticipate many problems with access. In the event that a student cannot stream audio/video we’ll arrange for additional readings to fill the gap.

My greatest challenge teaching will likely be getting students to actually do the reading, a modest request that is usually met with a combination of well-intentioned fribbling and passive resistance. More than ever, most of our students’ waking hours will be consumed plying the dazzling, meaningless shallows of the internet. I can suggest habits that improve their chances of learning, but odds are most of my students will reap very few benefits from an online education. In this register I think it makes sense to refuse to humanize my courses and underscore that they will be working largely in isolation, overstimulated monads drifting in an endless void of appearances. This stance is perhaps one of the only valuable lessons I can impart: that the structure we inhabit determines almost everything.

The good news is that because my courses will be based on a labor system of grading students who complete the assignments on time will receive a B. Those who complete all assignments with distinction will receive an A. Those who do not complete all assignments or turn in assignments late will receive a C. It will not be possible to fail my courses.


Spel Against Demons

by Gary Snyder

The release of Demonic Energies in the name of
the people
must cease

Messing with blood sacrifice in the name of
must cease

The stifling self-indulgence in anger in the name of
must cease

this is death to clarity
death to compassion

the man who has the soul of the wolf
knows the self-restraint
of the wolf

aimless executions and slaughterings
are not the work of wolves and eagles

but the work of hysterical sheep

The Demonic must be devoured!
Self-serving must be
cut down
Anger must be
plowed back
Fearlessness, humor, detachment, is power

Gnowledge is the secret of Transformation!

Down with demonic killers who mouth revolutionary
slogans and muddy the flow of change, may they be
Bound by the Noose, and Instructed by the Diamond
Sword of ACHALA, the Immovable, Lord of Wisdom, Lord
of Heat, who is squint-eyed and whose face is terrible
with bare fangs, who wears on his crown a garland of
severed heads, clad in a tiger skin, he who turns
Wrath to Purified Accomplishment,

whose powers are of lava,
of magma, of deep rock strata, of gunpowder,
and the Sun.

He who saved tortured intelligent demons and filth-eating
hungry ghosts, his spel is,


303 FA20 working

3 modern/contemporary texts focused on 3 historical periods in 3 eras– ancient, medieval, modern, 1 text: 1 period.

With the further specification that each will be about Empire/Revolt


Roman Republic, 70s BCE: Spartacus by Lewis Gibbon (1933)


Viking Age (10th century CE): The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson (1945)

Fall of Granada (late 15th century CE): Granada by Radwa Ashour (199?)

early 16th century CE: Leo Africanus by Amin Malouf (1986)

Modern (pre 1960s)

English Revolution: Havoc in Its Third Year, Ronan Bennett (200?)

Haitian Revolution: The Black Jacobins by CLR James (1938)

ca. WWI, East Africa: Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah (199?)



FALL 2020 Preliminary


William Shakespeare, Othello

CLR James, The Black Jacobins

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood

Bloom and Martin, Black Against Empire


Alice Walker, Meridian

Charles Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition

Claude McKay, Amiable With Big Teeth/ Chester Himes, Blind Man with a Pistol








303 prep

Peter Heather, The Goths

John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

David Punter, Literature of Terror

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins, etc.

Wm. Beckford, Vathek

Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft

EA Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla

White, Luise. Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, c2000 2000.


Othello Readings

William Shakespeare, Othello

Leo Africanus, The History and Description of Africa

Giraldi Cinthio, Hecatommithi

Diana Adesola Mafe, From Ogún to Othello: (Re)Aquainting Yoruba Myth and Shakespeare’s Moor


Thinking about a unit on African American Gothic. There’s a ton of stuff out there on the wider genre of Gothic and many people have noted that literary genres such as the slave narrative are effectively Gothic texts. I tried doing something along these lines a few years ago. We used Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to talk about themes of captivity and haunting. Certainly you could read a film like Night of the Living Dead not only as a story about mass consumption but as a dramatization of the pro-segregation campaigns collectively known as ‘Massive Resistance’. Duane Jones, who plays the hero Ben, fends of soulless hordes driven by their zombie white-supremacist ideology. He would go on to act in Ganja & Hess, which takes up the vampire legend for its own purposes.

Here’s a photograph (left) made by Gordon Parks– better known perhaps as the director of the seminal blaxploitation film Shaft-– titled American Gothic, Washington, D.C. The visual rhyme with Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic (right) forms the basis of Parks’s resignifying gesture, one which is then complicated by the substitution of a US flag for the frame house in the original. If Wood called his painting American Gothic ironically, by virtue of the presence of a single arched (gothic style) window, does Parks’s choice of a flag indicate that the nation itself is (ridiculously, improbably) gothicky?