Category Archives: Values in American Life

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

American Roman Noir (225)

Both A Kiss Before Dying (KBD) and The Grifters are examples of what William Marling has called the American roman noir. Noir in this instance echoes another genre, film noir, and refers to a whole repertoire of narrative elements including settings, characters, plot devices, and diction. More generally it signifies a degraded moral condition and a pessimistic, even deterministic, view of the world. The noir universe is one where dark impulses drive action and appearances are often deceptive. Though romans noir often play out in the demimonde— cheap bars, casinos, shabby boardinghouses, etc.– moral darkness also pervades sun-struck suburban streets and opulent penthouses.

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Spring (225)

The Girl Ch. 17 page 72:

I had got desires now. It all broke on my tongue like some wild sweet fruit. As if my bark was breaking in spring, or mama rising in me, telling me how the flesh can die, be beaten and lost. I felt a great root springing down and a great blossom springing up, like my hair sprang out of my skull green, or a terrible root went into the dark with a hundred mouths looking for food.