Category Archives: Values in American Life

Troublesome (225)

“Revolutions have to be thorough. You spare the kids – they run off and warn your enemies. If you’re going to take that road, you’d better make up your mind to take it to the end. That is the horror of the thing. It’s all well and good to say that these killings came out of rage. I don’t doubt that to a certain extent they did, but the real horror is that even if they hadn’t, matters would have probably taken the same course. A revolution is either thorough or it’s doomed. Real revolutionaries know that, which is why they have to proceed in cold blood.” 

— Eugene Genovese from Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property

Image: Mechanical Bank (225)

mechanical bank n.d. Maker unknown. Image from artstor.org

(Note on terminology: After struggling with it awhile I opted to use the n-word once in this essay because it is literally part of the name of the object discussed. This single use of the term was placed in quotes to indicate that fact, as well as the fact that I would never use it otherwise.)

The characters and events described by Charles Chesnutt in The Marrow of Tradition give dramatic form to Black people’s experience of racist discrimination and violence during the Nadir of the Negro. Deprived of many civil rights, targeted by lynch mobs, and subjected to daily indignities, African Americans struggled to survive the Nadir as best they were able. 

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Notes on Narrative

I’m still learning how to teach online. The last lecture I don’t consider particularly effective and I think that from now on I’m going to post multiple, very short lectures instead of trying to adhere to a longer format which probably only works face to face in real time.

Ideally you’ll be learning the human geography of the Crusades, the dates of events, the names of the major figures, big picture stuff, etc. in addition to thinking about historiography as a form of narrative-making that shapes contemporary understanding of the present and the past.

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FA20 Readings Final

415

Ali, Tariq. The Book of Saladin. New York: Verso, 1999. Print. 

ISBN 9781781680032

Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1998. Print. 

ISBN 9780253212344

James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. 2d Ed., Rev. ed. New York: Vintage, 1963. Print.

ISBN 9780679724674

303

Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1998. Print. 

ISBN 9780253212344

James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. 2d Ed., Rev. ed. New York: Vintage, 1963. Print.

ISBN 9780679724674

Maalouf, Amin and Rothschild, Jon. The Crusades through Arab Eyes. New York: Schocken, 1985. Print.

ISBN 9780805208986

225

Chesnutt, Charles and Sundquist, Eric J. The Marrow of Tradition. New York: Penguin, 1993. Print.

ISBN 9780140186864

Hammett, Dashiell. Red Harvest. New York: Vintage, 1992. Print. 

ISBN 9780679722618

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed: A Novel. New York: Perennial Classics, 2003. Print. 

ISBN 9780061054884

AfricanAmericanGothic

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?

SPR 20

Hi Everybody,

I hope you’re doing well.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our situation and I’ve decided to give everyone an A for this course.

Starting today, I am no longer requiring you to do any assignments. You do not have to take KW2 or take the final exam or write the essay.

If, however, you would like to complete some or all of the remaining work for this course then please email me. I would be delighted to evaluate anything you submit.

Again: no one has to do any more work and everyone gets an A.

Take care of the people around you.

I hope to see you all again in the Fall.

Best Wishes,

Sean