Tag Archives: Theory

Common Sense 2 (HUM303/HUM415/HUM425/HUM470)

“It is precisely its ‘spontaneous’ quality, its transparency, its ‘naturalness,’ its refusal to be made to examine the premises on which it is founded, its resistance to change and to correction, its effect of instant recognition, and the closed circle in which it moves which makes common sense, at one and the same time, ‘spontaneous,’ ideological and unconscious. You cannot learn, through common sense, how things are: you can only discover where they fit into the existing scheme of things. In this way, its very taken-for-grantedness is what establishes it as a medium in which its own premises and presuppositions are being rendered invisible by its apparent transparency.”

— Stuart Hall, “Culture, the Media, and the ‘Ideological Effect'” (pdf)

Periodization (HUM303/ HUM415)

Note: This post is addressed primarily to HUM 415 students, but as with the prior post, students of HUM 303 might benefit from it.

Last week we talked briefly about key features of the contemporary era, a period that I argued begins in the 1970s. As we noted, “contemporary” means different things for different disciplines, and deciding how to make such a distinction is far from clear cut. On the other hand, the ambiguity of periodizing doesn’t allow us to make arbitrary decisions about when one moment in history ends and another begins. Consider, for instance, Fredric Jameson’s essay, “Periodizing the ’60s,”  which argues that

Continue reading

DRE (HUM303/ HUM415)

NOTE: Though what’s below is addressed most immediately to HUM 303 students, I think students of HUM 415 will get something out of it as well.

This week we need to cover as best we can the readings to date– which are really intended as preparation for our study of the primary texts (the novels) and the genre of adventure fiction as a whole. Last class we took a look at Williams’s “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent” (DRE). As I stated on Thursday, the main focus of this short but dense chapter is the question of periodization. Specifically, what is a period and how do we periodize? Williams cautions us against simply culling a few of the “leading” features of a cultural epoch because to do so flattens history out. In his considered opinion, the only way to capture the complexity of a given period is by relating two other categories of socio-cultural production and practice (we could call them “domains”): the residual and the emergent. At any given moment in history different values or formations will characterize the social and cultural landscape. At times, these other categories– residual + emergent– will be antagonistic to the cultural dominant.

Continue reading

Histories of Violence

The Guggenheim and the UK Guardian have put together a multimedia project on violence. A number of interesting thinkers and artists (Zygmunt Bauman, Judith Butler, Brian Massumi, et al) have produced numerous short films, interviews, lectures which present critical and theoretical “interventions” into the concept of violence.


Critical Categories for Life Narrative, Pt. 1 (HUM470)


what is memory? according to various experts– literary critics and cognitive psychologists alike– memories are constructed. what we remember isn’t a pristine recording of some event but rather our own relationship to it. memories are thus not objective but very subjective. they change over time, for instance, or at their very least their significance shifts as more memories are accumulated. Your memory of the Big Dog Next Door or the Fallen Ice Cream Cone, for instance, might look very different at the age of 4 versus 40.

Continue reading