Tag Archives: Housekeeping

Nervous Conditions/ First Paper (contcult)

Welcome to the postcolonialism unit. Monday we’ll discuss the first four chapters of Tsitsi Dangarembga‘s Nervous Conditions. Recall that the title of this book is from a phrase written by Jean-Paul Sartre in his introduction to Frantz Fanon‘s seminal Wretched of the Earth. You can read that introduction here.

Wednesday we’ll continue with NC, up to chapter 7.

Friday we’ll short for the book up to chapter 9.

Go to the Contemporary Culture page on this site to see the first paper prompt.

Manliness and Civilization

For Wednesday we’re reading the first chapter of Gail Bederman’s Manliness and Civilization. Of particular note is the distinction she makes between masculinity and manliness. Also, pay attention to her remarks on the concept of civilization. 

Friday we’ll move onto Chapter Two, which discusses Ida B. Wells’s anti-lynching crusade.

I’m amazed I need to say this, but please do not sleep in my class. Or text message. Or listen to music on your ipod. Or snort ketamine. Remember:  because we are here others are not. Other people who would like to be here are flipping burgers, folding sweaters at The Gap, fueling F-15s, or cleaning toilets. 

Finally, the name of the documentary we screened in class is Unforgivable Blackness. I highly recommend it.

VIAL: This Week

On Friday we talked about Chapter 11 of Angela Davis’s Women, Race and Class which discusses “the myth of the Black rapist”. Any dialog on the issue of rape, I argued, ought to begin with three propositions: 1) rape is a male crime: the overwhelming majority of rapes are committed by men 2) rape is a matter of power not sex 3) very likely you know someone who has been the victim of rape or an attempted rape. You can find some statistics here and here.

Remember that the purpose of Davis’s discussion of the “myth of the Black rapist” is to examine how class, race, and gender come together in the realm of politics, in this case in the attempt to maintain white supremacy in the post-Reconstruction South. That theme– how fundamental categories of human experience and identity are mobilized for political reasons, and how they play out in the culture at large– is one that Gail Bederman picks up in Manliness and Civilization, the first chapter of which was assigned for Monday.

Kyle wrote in to say regarding the lynching of James Byrd, 

“2 of the three men who were involved in that dragging, John King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, both ex-cons connected with white supremacist prison gangs, were sentenced to death. The third, Shawn Allen Berry recieved life in prison.”

Here’s an article from the World Socialist Web Site written around the time of the atrocity. Note the effort to contextualize this event in terms of history and social forces.

I was somewhat confused when I suggested that Emmet Till’s killers were eventually brought to justice. That was not the case, as this timeline indicates. I think I had in mind one of the men who blew up the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama– Bobby Frank Cherry, who died in prison in 2002. The Birmingham bombing occurred in an area of town that came to be known as “Dynamite Hill” because of the prevalence of bombings during the Civil Rights Era. (Angela Davis grew up there as well.) Cherry’s victims were 4 Little Girls— Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair.

Next Week (contcult)

Try to read Waiting for the Barbarians in its entirety as quickly as possible. Likely this will take you about 4 or possibly 5 hours.  All next week we will be discussing this work and the issue of Empire. Unavoidably, we will also discuss torture. If you are interested in the issue of torture as it is currently being “debated” and practiced as a component of US foreign policy, then go to the page on this website titled The Question. 

Monday we will discuss the first chapters of the book

Wednesday we will continue our discussion of WFB in light of Coetzee’s essay “Into the Dark Chamber.”

Friday we will pursue or discussions further, and with any luck have time to include Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Laureate speech.

Next Week (VIAL)

This Q&A with critics, musicologists, and academics such as Mel Watkins and Eric Lott covers some of the basic questions surrounding minstrelsy. Worth checking out.

For next week:

Monday: we’ll take a quiz on Bamboozled and discuss the first essay in Angela Davis’s Women Race & Class.

Wednesday: discussion of chapter 2 of WRC.

Friday: discussion of chapter 5 of WRC.

Moving on (VIAL)

Today we had our first pop quiz, talked briefly about the cultural form of the minstrel show, and listened to “Reefer and Beer” by Houston’s Devin the Dude. 

Regarding the minstrel show and more generally African-American theatrical performance, screen the following excerpts from a documentary on vaudeville:

Remember that you’ll need to view Bamboozled (2000) by Spike Lee for next Monday.

Also, we will attempt to finish with Adventures of Huckleberry Finny by this Friday. It’s time to move on.

Clarity (contcult)

This is week 4 of the semester, and in the interests of maintaining a sense of what we are doing and where we are headed let’s review:

So far we’ve covered the key features of the contemporary period (see earlier posts) and have waded into the deeper waters of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory. With AT we are  hoping to get a sense of the changes in both the way that people think about the world and how that world itself has changed in the last 40 years. The first 4 chapters of the book are the most crucial for these purposes, so if you haven’t read them then do so as soon as possible. 

Eagleton’s project is to lay out the state of the field– what shape inquiry into the condition of the world has taken. He is concerned that the innovations of cultural theory have passed into a new orthodoxy, and in order to challenge that tendency, he submits theory (criticism) to a new round of criticism. What we are dealing with here, then, is criticism of criticism (of criticism). So that we do not lapse into overly familiar and unproductive patterns of thinking, so that we do not lose our critical edge, we must undertake to revitalize our theoretical stance, to transform it as the conditions it seeks to understand change. Thus his return to such categories as truth, objectivity, and virtue– concepts familiar to any student of the very origins of western philosophy. Does this mean theory is ‘over’? No. What it means is that the world has changed since theory first arose and it is incumbent on those of us who would attempt to analyze the present to adapt to new circumstances. 

This week we’ll look over Raymond Williams’s short meditation on hegemony, review what we’ve covered thus far, and begin JM Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians. This marks the end of what we could consider as the preliminaries. Now we undertake to examine cultural texts which are the product of the contemporary period.

You’ll have noted that there’s an element of “current events” to the course. The main purpose of this aspect of the class is to encourage all of you to become/stay aware of significant trends in contemporary life. Your personalized news.google.com page should help with this exercise. 

Starting this week I will give assignments for the week in advance, probably by Sunday evening.

Also, please be advised that I hold office hours every Monday and Wednesday from 2.10 to 3.00 at the tables in front of Cafe Rosso just outside the Humanities building. If you’re unable to come to office hours due to scheduling conflict, then please contact me and we’ll arrange a time more convenient to you.

Housekeeping (VIAL)

It was good to see everyone in class today. Remember that the first two assignments have already been given: 1) go to news.google.com and personalize that page with the key phrases a) american values and b) american life AND 2) read through page 62 of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s important that you get the edition at the bookstore because we’ll be using some of the material at the end of the book. 

Friday I’ll lecture on what we mean when we use the term “values” and relate that concept to the idea of national identity and everyday life. Recall that the word value is etymologically related to “wield”– that’s an important collateral meaning as it indicates that values aren’t merely abstractions hovering somewhere in the aether, but that they are, above all, emplaced, embodied and practiced.  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section of this entry.