* Like Kirk said, don’t let them promote you: Rising to Your Level of Misery at Work.
* Big-Name Plan B’s for Democrats Concerned About Hillary Clinton. I guess I’ll get started on Plan C.
* At long last, the billionaires have come for their ancient enemy, UNC’s English department.
* Cooperation or Collusion? Lawsuit Accuses Duke and UNC of Faculty Non-Poaching Deal. I think they bought themselves a whole lot of legal trouble here.
* Amid all the weirdness of the U Iowa president hire, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gotta spend money to make money. University of Iowa Faculty Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in Board of Regents. “We’re just getting started.”
* Some good news in Wisconsin: MATC announces free tuition for low-income students.
* Here’s the truth: academia is an amazing sector with some of the best features of any job, even if it also has substantial problems. Folks on the way out might feel like they’re biting their thumb at something, and those still “stuck” on the inside of this troubled-but-terrific career might feel some welcome-if-temporary solidarity. But after that, it’s just more fodder for legislators, corporations, and the general public to undermine the academy. It helps nobody in the long run. No One Cares That You Quit Your Job.
* Mediocrity is the secret key that explains everything. Moving beyond the early focus on conformity, we propose that the threat of status loss may make those with middle status more wary of advancing creative solutions in fear that they will be evaluated negatively. Using different manipulations of status and measures of creativity, we found that when being evaluated, middle-status individuals were less creative than either high-status or low-status individuals (Studies 1 and 2). In addition, we found that anxiety at the prospect of status loss also caused individuals with middle status to narrow their focus of attention and to think more convergently (Study 3). We delineate the consequences of power and status both theoretically and empirically by showing that, unlike status, the relationship between power and creativity is positive and linear (Study 4). By both measuring status (Studies 2 and 3) and by manipulating it directly (Study 5), we demonstrate that the threat of status loss explains the consequences of middle status.
* Half of Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes. This is framed as good news: “…after two decades of linear growth, the prevalence of diabetes in the United States has finally started to plateau.”
* The Final Discworld Book Is Bittersweet For Many Reasons. I haven’t read one of these in decades, but I’m still sad he’s gone.
* And Boots lives. I anticipate that this will make Zoey’s entire year.
* The past is another country: the town where Emmett Till was lynched is disappearing.
* Refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely. The idea of porous borders, of being inundated by foreigners, is immanent to global capitalism. The migrations in Europe are not unique. In South Africa, more than a million refugees from neighbouring states came under attack in April from the local poor for stealing their jobs. There will be more of these stories, caused not only by armed conflict but also by economic crises, natural disasters, climate change and so on. There was a moment, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when the Japanese authorities were preparing to evacuate the entire Tokyo area – more than twenty million people. If that had happened, where would they have gone? Should they have been given a piece of land to develop in Japan, or been dispersed around the world? What if climate change makes northern Siberia more habitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large parts of sub-Saharan Africa become too dry to support a large population? How will the redistribution of people be organised? When events of this kind happened in the past, the social transformations were wild and spontaneous, accompanied by violence and destruction. Slavoj Žižek on the refugee crisis.
* “On Queer Privilege.” Postcolonial theory has faced versions of this dilemma from time to time.
* Netflix to continue the best SF show of the decade? Yes please.
* And for your consideration: the greatest gif in world history.
* If I were going to encourage you to take any one class simply because it’s good for the freshman soul, I would say this: Take some introductory literature class that forces you to memorize poems, heaps and gobs and mounds of poems, old poems.
* This afternoon at two o’clock the New York State Attorney General will announce the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Committee to Save Cooper Union, a group of activist students, faculty, and alumni against the Cooper Union trustees. The settlement will impose various reforms to Cooper Union governance, establish an independent financial monitor for the college, and begin the slow, difficult process of re-establishing Cooper Union as a free, healthy institution. Incredible turn of events. The tragedy of Cooper Union.
* A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself. I continue to think Democrats are completely in denial about how bad this story could get.
* Massive hurricanes striking Miami or Houston. Earthquakes leveling Los Angeles or Seattle. Deadly epidemics. Meet the “maximums of maximums” that keep emergency planners up at night.
* The proportion of people with intellectual disability who have been treated with psychotropic drugs far exceeds the proportion with recorded mental illness. Antipsychotics are often prescribed to people without recorded severe mental illness but who have a record of challenging behaviour. The findings suggest that changes are needed in the prescribing of psychotropics for people with intellectual disability.
* Wow, finally: Octavia Butler’s Dawn is allegedly being developed for TV.
* Piggy, Kermit, and domestic violence. Next up: why Elmer Fudd hunting animals out of season is actually no laughing matter…
* Mark your calendars, East Coasters: Jaimee Hills reads from her award-winning book How to Avoid Speaking at the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC on October 26. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that preorders are available now at Amazon and Waywiser Press.
* The world’s most popular academic article: “Fuck Nuance.”
That is the kudzu of nuance. It makes us shy away from the riskier aspects of abstraction and theory-building generally, especially if it is the rst and most frequent response we hear. Instead of pushing some abstraction or argument along for a while to see where it goes, there is a tendency to start hedging theory with particulars. People complain that you’re leaving some level or dimension out, and tell you to bring it back in. Crucially, “accounting for”, “addressing”, or “dealing” with the missing item is an unconstrained process. at is, the question is not how a theory can handle this or that issue internally, but rather the suggestion to expand it with this new term or terms. Class, Institutions, Emotions, Structure, Culture, Interaction—all of them are taken generically to “matter”, and you must acknowledge that they matter by incorporating them. Incorporation is the reintroduction of particularizing elements, even though those particulars were what you had to throw away in order to make your concept a theoretically useful abstraction in the first place.
See also: nuance trolling as academic filibuster.
* But Thrun and other MOOC founders seem less than concerned about living up to their earlier, lofty rhetoric or continuing that tradition of bringing education to an underserved population. True, they haven’t entirely abandoned their rhetoric about equal access to educational opportunities. But they’ve shifted to what’s becoming a more familiar Silicon Valley narrative about the future of employability: a cheap and precarious labor force. That’s the unfortunate reality of “Uber for Education.”
* Artisanal college. Cruelty free, cage free, farm-fresh.
* Meanwhile, in today’s exciting new anti-academic moral panic: UNC’s The Literature of 9/11.
* As Murray Pomerance points out, plagiarism is a form of theft, and we don’t steal our own work. On the contrary, we expand its reach, and build on it, thereby making it more relevant as the contexts that produce it change.
* And no one talks about it: Barack Obama will leave his party in its worst shape since the Great Depression—even if Hillary wins. More here. I’m an outlier on the progressive side of the fence insofar as I think Clinton might really have to pull out of the race over the emails — so it’s even worse than it seems.
* The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina serves as a reminder that resilience is a function of the strength of a community. Gentrification’s Ground Zero: In the ten years since Katrina, New Orleans has been remade into a neoliberal playground for young entrepreneurs. The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover.
* I love dumb stuff like this, when the corrupt screw up and lose: Business owners try to remove all voters from business district, but they forgot one college student.
* Firstborn Girls Are the Best at Life. Any Zoey could have told you that!
* Future Jails May Look and Function More Like Colleges. And, you know, vice versa…
* Never say “unfilmable”: The BBC is going to try to make a show out of The City and the City.
* Declare victory and go home to your panic room: America Has Lost The War Against Guns.
* And some things mankind was just never meant to know: See how easily a rat can wriggle up your toilet.
I’m really excited about this one, too! This should be a great semester. I owe some thanks to Jodi Melamed and Priscilla Wald for this one.
GENERAL COURSE PLAN
WEEK 1: AMERICAN LITERATURE AFTER THE AMERICAN CENTURY
WEEK 2-4: CANONS AND TRIGGER WARNINGS: LOLITA
WEEK 4-6: POPULAR CULTURE(S): THE BODY SNATCHERS
WEEK 6-8: THEORIES AND IDENTITIES: DAWN
WEEK 8-9: POSTMODERNISM AND CONSUMER CULTURE: DAVID FOSTER WALLACE
WEEK 10-11: NATIONALISMS AND TRANSNATIONALISMS: TROPIC OF ORANGE
WEEK 11-12: ECOCRITICISM IN THE ANTHROPOCENE: WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES
WEEK 13: AMERICAN LITERATURE AFTER EVERTHING
WEEK 14-15: CLASS SYMPOSIUM
|M||Aug. 31||FIRST DAY OF CLASS
Henry Luce, “The American Century” [D2L]
|W||Sep. 2||American Literature after the American Century
Henry A. Giroux, “Public Intellectuals against the Neoliberal University” [Web]
Michael Bérubé, “American Studies without Exceptions” [D2L]
|M||Sep. 7||LABOR DAY HOLIDAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep. 9||Canons and Trigger Warnings
Lolita, Foreword and Part One
|M||Sep. 14||Lolita, Part Two (first half)|
|W||Sep. 16||Lolita (whole book including afterword)|
|M||Sep. 21||Jay Caspian King, “Trigger Warnings and the Novelist’s Mind” [newyorker.com]
Malcolm Harris, “Western Canon, Meet Trigger Warning” [aljazeera.com]
Ira Wells, “Forgetting Lolita: How Nabokov’s Victim Became an American Fantasy” [newrepublic.com]
“A Portrait of the Young Girl: On the 60th Anniversary of Lolita” [Los Angeles Review of Books]
|W||Sep. 23||Popular Culture(s)
Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture”
|M||Sep. 28||Invasion of the Body Snatchers (whole book)|
|W||Sep. 30||Invasion of the Body Snatchers (whole book)
Susan Sontag, “The Imagination of Disaster” [D2L]
Fredric Jameson, “Metacommentary” [D2L]
|M||Oct. 5||Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film)
Erika Nelson, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Gender and Sexuality in Four Film Adaptations” [D2L]
Marty Roth, “Twice Two: The Fly and Invasion of the Body Snatchers” [D2L]
|W||Oct. 7||Theories and Identities
Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (first half)
|M||Oct. 12||Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (second half)|
|W||Oct. 14||Octavia Butler, Adulthood Rites (excerpts) [D2L]
Donna Haraway, “The Cyborg Manifesto” [D2L]
Donna Haraway, Primate Visions [excerpt] [D2L]
|M||Oct. 19||Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” [D2L]|
|W||Oct. 21||Postmodernism and Consumer Culture
David Foster Wallace, “Octet”
David Foster Wallace, “The Depressed Person”
|M||Oct. 26||CONFERENCES—NO CLASS|
|W||Oct. 28||David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”
Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”
|M||Nov. 2||Nationalism and Transnationalism
Tropic of Orange (first half)
FINAL PAPER PROSPECTUS DUE
|W||Nov. 4||Tropic of Orange (second half)|
|M||Nov. 9||Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands [excerpts] [D2L]
Junot Díaz, “Monstro” [D2L]
|W||Nov. 11||Ecocriticism in the Anthropocene
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (first half)
|M||Nov. 16||We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (second half)|
|W||Nov. 18||Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History” [D2L]
McKenzie Wark, “Critical Theory after the Anthropocene” [D2L]
|M||Nov. 23||American Literature after Everything
Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” [D2L]
Giorgio Agamben, “What Is The Contemporary?” [D2L]
Natalia Cecire, “Humanities Scholarship Is Incredibly Relevant, and That Makes People Sad” [Web]
|W||Nov. 25||THANKSGIVING—NO CLASS|
|M||Nov. 30||Syllabus Workshop
GROUP SYLLABUSES DUE
|W||Dec. 2||Class Symposium (day one)|
|M||Dec. 7||Class Symposium (day two)|
|W||Dec. 9||Class Symposium (day three)|
|F||Dec. 18||FINAL PAPERS DUE BY 10 AM|
I’m really excited about this one. Here’s the day-by-day schedule…
Big thanks to Ben Robertson, Robert Tally, and Tim McMahon for sharing their Tolkien syllabus, and to Brian Kenna for talking a few things through with me when I needed it. (UPDATE: Thanks also to Robin Reid, who had some great ideas for additions.)
GENERAL COURSE PLAN
WEEKS 1-2: TOLKIEN’S CREATIVE PROJECT
WEEKS 3-4: THE HOBBIT
WEEKS 5-7: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
WEEKS 8-10: THE TWO TOWERS
WEEKS 11-13: THE RETURN OF THE KING
WEEKS 14-15: THE SILMARILLION
|M||Aug. 31||FIRST DAY OF CLASS|
|W||Sep. 2||“On Fairy Stories” [D2L]|
|F||Sep. 4||“Leaf by Niggle” [D2L]|
|M||Sep. 7||LABOR DAY HOLIDAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep. 9||Brian Attebery, “Is Fantasy Literature? Tolkien and the Theorists”|
|F||Sep. 11||Guest lecturer Brian Kenna on Tolkien’s biography and war service|
|M||Sep. 14||The Hobbit, chapters 1-4|
|W||Sep. 16||The Hobbit, chapters 5-6
original “Riddles in the Dark” chapter (D2L)
|F||Sep. 18||The Hobbit, chapters 7-9|
|M||Sep. 21||The Hobbit, chapters 10-14|
|W||Sep. 23||The Hobbit, chapters 15-19|
|F||Sep. 25||The Hobbit (whole book, plus film adaptations)
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Quest for Erebor”
John D. Rateliff, “The 1960 Hobbit”
|M||Sep. 28||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, foreword, prologue, and chapters 1-3|
|W||Sep. 30||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, chapters 4-7|
|F||Oct. 2||Tom Bombadil
The Encyclopedia of Arda: “Tom Bombadil” [Web]
Lord of the Rings Wiki: “Theories about Tom Bombadil” and linked pages [Web]
|M||Oct. 5||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, chapters 8-12
FINAL PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED
|W||Oct. 7||Library Day #1—Meet at Raynor Library|
|F||Oct. 9||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, chapters 1-5|
|M||Oct. 12||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, chapters 6-8|
Unfinished Tales: “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn” [D2L]
Robert Tally, “Galadriel, Witch-Queen of Lórien” [Web]
|F||Oct. 16||The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, chapters 9-10|
|M||Oct. 19||The Two Towers, Book Three, chapters 1-4|
|W||Oct. 21||The Two Towers, Book Three, chapters 5-7|
|F||Oct. 24||MIDTERM BREAK|
|M||Oct. 26||CONFERENCES—NO CLASS|
|W||Oct. 28||The Two Towers, Book Three, chapters 8-11
Robert Tally, “Song of Saruman” [Web]
|F||Oct. 30||The Two Towers, Book Four, chapters 1-4|
|M||Nov. 2||The Two Towers, Book Four, chapters 5-10|
Robert Tally, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Orcs” [D2L]
Richard K. Morgan, “The Real Fantastic Stuff” [Web]
N.K. Jemisin, “The Unbearable Baggage of Orcing” [Web]
|F||Nov. 6||Library Day #2—Meet at Raynor Library|
|M||Nov. 9||The Return of the King, Book Five, chapters 1-6|
|W||Nov. 11||The Return of the King, Book Five, chapters 7-10
Robin Reid, “Light (noun, 1) or Light (adjective, 14b)? Female Bodies and Femininities in The Lord of the Rings”
|F||Nov. 13||CONFERENCES—NO CLASS
POST FINAL PAPER PROSPECTUS ON D2L AND COMMENT ON AT LEAST TWO OTHER STUDENTS’ PROSPECTUSES
|M||Nov. 16||The Return of the King, Book Six, chapters 1-3
Sean Crist, “Could the Eagles Have Flown Frodo into Mordor?” and responses
|W||Nov. 18||The Return of the King, Book Six, chapters 4-7|
|F||Nov. 20||The Return of the King, Book Six, chapters 8-9
David M. Craig, “ ‘Queer Lodgings’: Gender and Sexuality in Lord of the Rings.”
|M||Nov. 23||The Return of the King, appendices
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Epilogue” [D2L]
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The New Shadow” [D2L]
|W||Nov. 25||THANKSGIVING—NO CLASS|
|F||Nov. 27||THANKSGIVING—NO CLASS|
|M||Nov. 30||The Silmarillion: “Ainulindalë,” “Valaquenta,” and Quenta Silmarillion, chapters 1-5|
|W||Dec. 2||The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion, chapters 6-12|
|F||Dec. 4||The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion, chapters 13-19|
|M||Dec. 7||The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion, chapters 20-24
J.R.R. Tolkien, “Notes on Motives in The Silmarillion” [Web]
|W||Dec. 9||The Silmarillion: “Akallabêth” and “On the Rings of Power and the Third Age”|
|F||Dec. 11||Michael Saler, “The Middle Positions of Middle Earth”
LAST DAY OF CLASS
|F||Dec. 18||FINAL PAPERS DUE BY 1 PM|