Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’
And here’s the Infinite Jest syllabus. This one turned out to be a surprisingly difficult puzzle to put together, just because I felt strongly that the book absolutely had to be finished by the class period before the class period before Thanksgiving (and later determined that we really needed a whole week to talk about the book just as a whole) — while I also felt (after the experience of the Tolkien class was so great) that it would be really good to have a slow start where we talked a bit about Wallace as a thinker and read some of his other work. This seemed especially urgent to me because of the fact of the suicide, which really does seem to risk retrospectively poisoning some aspects of the book and Wallace’s larger career (I’ve included the MLA panel we’re doing explicitly in the course as a last-day exercise, though I realized yesterday while prepping the course that I seem to have completely cryptomnesically ripped off Tom Bissell in my panel abstract — very embarrassing).
I decided early on that “beginning with the end” was the way to do this course, discussing the suicide openly and concretely at length at the very start of the class. My workshopmates in my Jesuit pedagogy seminar last semester very helpfully suggested some strategies for making the course a comfortable place to talk about some very uncomfortable things, and strongly suggested that I include an explicit content note in the syllabus (which as you can see, I did, a fairly lengthy one; I don’t think I’ve ever done one before, except in briefly offering the possibility of an alternate assignment for Lolita in a sophomore-level survey).
The result of all this is a syllabus that I’m pretty happy with and that I hope won’t be too demanding. I’ve thought a lot about not just trying to generate buy-in and a spirit of shared endeavor, but also how to make sure I don’t lose a ton of people along the way. In the end, with a MW class meeting trying to read a 1,079-page novel in nine weeks while leaving space at the beginning and end for other conversations about Infinite Jest, I decided I just couldn’t do much better than around 50-70 pages per class period for the long haul, especially in the back half. I hope the assignments and the structure of the course pull them through, and give them space to get something valuable out of it, even if (as seems inevitable) some number of them completely hate both the book and me by the end…
As before, full syllabus with course procedures and all assignments at the link, but here’s the day-by-day schedule:
|M||Aug 29||FIRST DAY OF CLASS
audiobook: “This Is Water” (Commencement Address to the Kenyon College Class of 2005) (in class)
|W||Aug 31||“Alas, Poor Yorick” monologue from Hamlet, Act V, sc. i [D2L]
George Saunders, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]
Jonathan Franzen, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]
roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Sad Things, Together
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #1
|M||Sep 5||LABOR DAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep 7||David Foster Wallace, “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984) and Afterword by Kevin J. H. Dettmar (2016)|
|M||Sep 12||David Foster Wallace, “Octet” (1997/1999)
Guest Lecture: Tom Moore
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #2
|W||Sep 14||David Foster Wallace, “Octet” discussion continues
Infinite Jest forewords by Dave Eggers (2006) and Tom Bissell (2016) [D2L]
roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Literature, Art, Artists, Genius, Greatness, Pretension, Ambition, “Trying Too Hard,” Success, Failure, Annoyance, Fondness, Commitment, Honesty, Community, Solitude, Work, Intellectual Experiences That Might (or Might Not) Change Your Life, &c.
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #3
|M||Sep 19||Infinite Jest through p. 17
brief primer: How to Read Infinite Jest [in class]
|W||Sep 21||Infinite Jest through p. 63||46|
|M||Sep 26||Infinite Jest through p. 127||64|
|W||Sep 28||Infinite Jest through p. 171||44|
|M||Oct 3||Infinite Jest through p. 226||55|
|W||Oct 5||Infinite Jest through p. 283||57|
|M||Oct 10||Infinite Jest through p. 342||59|
|W||Oct 12||Infinite Jest through p. 398||56|
|M||Oct 17||Infinite Jest through p. 450||52|
|W||Oct 19||Infinite Jest through p. 503||53|
|M||Oct 24||Infinite Jest through p. 589||86|
|W||Oct 26||Infinite Jest through p. 648||59|
|M||Oct 31||Infinite Jest through p. 711||63|
|W||Nov 2||Infinite Jest through p. 775||64|
|M||Nov 7||Infinite Jest through p. 845||70|
|W||Nov 9||Infinite Jest through p. 911||66|
|M||Nov 14||Infinite Jest through p. 981
|W||Nov 16||Samuel Cohen, “To Wish to Try to Sing to the Next Generation: Infinite Jest’s History”
N. Katherine Hayles, “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and Infinite Jest”
OPTION #3 PROSPECTUS DUE BY TODAY
|M||Nov 21||Research Workshop with Heather James (Raynor)
Bring in the general topic you think you might want to write about, as well as some useful research questions.
* Infinite Jest pages per day (approximate) (not counting footnotes)
|M||Nov 28||OPTION #1 and #2 PROSPECTUS DUE TO ME ON D2L
Michael Pietsch, editor’s note, The Pale King (2011) [D2L]
David Foster Wallace, “Good Old Neon” (2001) [D2L]
|W||Nov 30||Lee Konstantinou, “No Bull: David Foster Wallace and Postironic Belief” [D2L]
Adam Kelly, “David Foster Wallace and the New Sincerity in American Fiction” [D2L]
|M||Dec 5||Ed Finn, “Becoming Yourself: The Afterlife of Reception” [D2L]
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Infinite Summer: Reading, Empathy, and the Social Network” [D2L]
MetaFilter.com, “RIP, DFW” [Web]
The Howling Fantods, Wallace-L, etc.
|W||Dec 7||FINAL THOUGHTS: MLA 2017 panel: “Infinite Jest at 20” [D2L]
Bring in four copies of the prospectus for your final project.
LAST DAY OF CLASS
|W||Dec 14||FINAL PROJECT DUE BY 12:30 PM|
Now, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.
It’s called an ERAD, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month.
Here’s how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.
This is literally highway robbery.
* In Rochester, a paid informant went undercover and drove a man suspected of being an Islamic extremist, Emanuel Lutchman, to a Walmart in December to buy a machete, ski masks, zip ties and other supplies for a would-be terrorist attack on New Year’s Eve. Because Mr. Lutchman, a mentally ill panhandler, had no money, the informant covered the $40 cost.
1. In the 2013-2014 school year, 6.5 million children were chronically absent from school, missing 15 or more days of school.
2. 850,000 high school students didn’t have access to a school counselor.
3. 1.6 million students went to a school that employed a sworn law-enforcement officer, but no counselor.
4. Nearly 800,000 students were enrolled in schools where more than 20 percent of teachers hadn’t met state licensure requirements.
5. Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool: Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended.
* Everyone has celebrated how Beyoncé’s celebrity power has elevated Warsan Shire’s work to global attention. But African literature should not only attain universal value when endorsed by the west, argues Ainehi Edoro.
* Talk grows of replacing Trump at GOP convention. Talk of a convention coup rattles Republican politics. Walker Agonistes. Advisors Fear Trump Will Suddenly Announce VP Pick on Twitter. Google GOP Dot Com Truth. Trump is really bad at this. Calm Down, Trump Won’t Be President. Trump and Weimar America. “For what it’s worth, however, I would suggest that the least bad option is for all career lawyers in the Justice Department—and career officials in other agencies—to stay put and serve in a Trump administration.”
* The general problem is that the modern liberal nation-state and its characteristic institutions are simply no longer capable of delivering on their baseline promises and possibilities to any national population anywhere. Even in nations that appear by most measures to be successful, the state withers due its lack of vision. Liberalism cannot handle the extension of its rights to all who are entitled, and its major alleged champions increasingly endorse depraved forms of military and economic illiberalism in the name of its defense. The brief moment of reform in which capital seemed to be harnessed to social democracy is very nearly over, and the difference between illicit and licit economies now seems paper-thin at best. Very little policy gets made because it’s the right thing to do; most policy is about transfer-seeking. Every dollar is spoken for. Every play is a scrum in the middle that moves the ball inches, never yards. Political elites around the world either speak in laughably dishonest ways about hope and aspiration or stick to grey, cramped horizons of plausibly incremental managerialism. Young people all around the world recognize that there is little hope of living in a better or more comfortable or more just world than their parents did, and their grandparents must often live every day with the possibility of losing whatever they’ve gained, that they are one lost job or sickness away from falling without a safety net. In the United States, what this all means in a more immediate sense is that Donald J. Trump is only the beginning.
There are some constraints to naming, however. The IUPAC rules stipulate new elements must be named after either
* “A mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object)”
* “A mineral, or similar substance”
* “A place or geographical region”
* “A property of the element”
* “A scientist”
* A new study produced by Cambridge University statistician David Spiegelhalter suggests the cause of declining sex trends over the past 30 years is Netflix.
* Fighting salary compression at the University of Washington. This is such a tough problem everywhere; the situation sounds much worse on every level at Marquette, for instance, than even what the article describes at Washington.
* For more than 20 years, actors and crew members stayed silent about mistreatment they suffered at the acclaimed Profiles Theatre. Now they’re speaking up, hoping to protect workers in non-Equity theaters across the country.
* Do Deaf Babies Need to be ‘Fixed’? I’ve found this debate utterly fascinating for years. I have no idea how to solve it.
* Of course you had me at “Biologists Have Learned Something Horrifying About Prairie Dogs.”
* Some nice conference acceptance news: My semester of David Foster Wallace will end with a panel on “Infinite Jest at Twenty” with Lee Konstantinou, Carrie Shanafelt, and Kate Hayles at MLA 2017. I’ve put the full panel description in the comments for anyone interested…
* David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech Almost Didn’t Happen. Guest appearance from my friend from grad school, Meredith Farmer!
* Call For Papers: The Precariat & The Professor.
* For World’s Newest Scrabble Stars, SHORT Tops SHORTER: Nigerian players dominate tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible.
* Want to See Hamilton in a City Near You? Buy a Subscription and Wait Two Years. Okay, maybe I will!
* google d&d player’s handbook truth: The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist.
* More data on learning and laptops — but you’ll never convince me that students benefit more from pen-and-paper notes than from a searchable, permanent archive of their entire academic career Spotlight can access and retrieve instantly.
* A new documentary, Agents of Change, describes the five-month SF State protest and a similar strike at Cornell University through the voices of former students like Tascoe who were involved. The film is a gripping case study of the meticulous organizing, community engagement, and careful planning that went into two of the most effective student strikes in American history. Black Studies Matter.
* I was seriously thisclose to writing a #TeamCap blog post to comicsplain Civil War to the confused, but Mightygodking got there first.
* Milwaukee in the ne — oh for fuck’s sake.
* Probably the most honest thing ever said about this election: 87-Year-Old Billionaire Endorses Trump, Says He Doesn’t Care If It’s A Mistake Since He’ll Be Dead. Meanwhile, this is just totally bananas: Donald Trump masqueraded as publicist to brag about himself.
* From what I can tell, the current Sanders campaign is riven between people who are increasingly upset or bewildered by what we might call the resurgent “burn it down” turn of Sanders outlook and others who are fully immersed in the feedback loop of grievance and paranoia that sees all the political events of the last year as a series of large and small scale conspiracies to deny the rectitude and destiny of Bernie Sanders. I’ve seen many, many campaigns. People put everything into it and losing is brutal and punishing. Folks on the losing side frequently go a little nuts, sometimes a lot nuts. The 2008 denouement really was pretty crazy. But it’s not clear that this time we have any countervailing force – adulthood, institutional buy-in, future careers, over-riding pragmatism to rein things in.
* Almost starting to see a pattern here, Disney: Shane Black reveals Iron Man 3 scrapped a female villain because of toy sales. Why Disney needs a gay princess.
* “When you have a child with a life-threatening illness, you have an irrevocably altered existence,” Barbara Sourkes had told the Levys, and Esther feels that is true. She had always felt in control of her fate, but now she believes this to be a fiction. She finds it difficult to reconcile bitterness over the blight of Andrew’s illness with gratitude for the reprieve. “We are the luckiest of the unluckiest people in the world,” she says. “I truly believe that.”
* I too like to live dangerously: Uber Says Riders Will Pay the Most When Their Phone Battery Is Dying.
* Nate Moore, 37, is the lone African-American producer in the film division at Marvel Studios. And elsewhere in Marvel news: Agents of SHIELD Star Says Marvel Doesn’t Care Enough About Its Own TV Show.
* What terrible luck! The CIA has “mistakenly” destroyed the sole copy of a massive Senate torture report in the custody of the agency’s internal watchdog group, Yahoo News reported Monday.
* Attempt no landings etc: Europa Is Even More Earth-Like Than We Suspected.
* Outrageous slander: The Warriors Still Aren’t the Best Team Ever.
* In other words, Zootopia advances a sublimated theory of power that is strangely conservative, and — perhaps not so strangely — fundamentally allied with the project of economic neoliberalization. After a humiliating stint as a traffic cop, Judy Hopps is assigned to the case of a group of predators who have suddenly gone “savage,” which in this anthropomorphized universe means ripping off their clothes, dropping to all fours, and attacking other animals. It turns out that this crisis of respectability was engineered by the unassuming Bellwether, a champion of rabbits and mice who has dosed the predators with a weaponized narcotic that returns them to a “primitive” state of bestial violence. In order to bolster her own political prospects, Bellwether has engineered an interspecies crisis of what 1990s Clintonites called “super-predators” run amok. This is very close — if we pursue the allegory to its political ends — to alleging that the state has manufactured crises of, say, black masculinity in order to whip up the white public-safety vote and secure its own legitimacy. Now that would be an interesting intervention, if the film took us all the way there. And it really almost does.
* CBS All-Access gets a second show. And that’s why The Good Wife had a terrible ending!
* I’m feeling pretty on board with Luke Cage, I have to say.
* As with the comic before it, the film version of The Dark Tower will likely detail a different, later iteration of the series’s defining time loop.
* The only Twitter account you need: @LegoSpaceBot.
* No human alive has seen 7 months this hot before. Get with the program, Great Lakes!
* But it’s not all bad news: Our Solar System Could Remain Habitable Long After Earth Is Destroyed.
Happy graduation day, Marquette!
So, this is what I’ll be teaching in the fall.
I’m a little swamped this morning so I can’t do the longer post on the Alternate History course I’ve been meaning too, but I wanted to thank the people on Twitter and Facebook who gave me such good ideas for additional texts in the course and really helped me expand my vision of what was possible. I’ll have a post about that sometime in the next couple of weeks, I hope…
ENGLISH 2000: LITERATURE AND GENRE
Course Title: Alternate History
Course Description: What if Hitler had never taken power? What if the United States had never dropped the atomic bomb on Japan? What if the 9/11 terror attacks had been foiled? What if Gore had beat Bush? What if slaves in the American South had successfully revolted, or China had discovered the New World, or the Black Plague had killed 99% of Europeans instead of only 25%? What if cloning had been invented and perfected in the 1970s? What if Superman’s rocket ship had landed in the Ukraine instead of Kansas? Is history made by Great Men, or by social movements, or by technological progress, or by random chance? Does history follow some set of laws or rules, or is it all just a bunch of stuff that happens? This course will explore all these topics and more through dedicated exploration of the literary genre typically called “alternate history”: stories of worlds that are exactly like ours, until some historical event, big or small, goes another way…
Readings: This course will explore the alternate history genre through a wide variety of media forms including prose fiction, film and television, comics, and games, but major readings for the course will include Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Abdourahman Waberi’s In the United States of Africa, Terry Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, among others.
Assignments: two 4-6-page papers; one 6-8-page final paper; online discussion forum; active class discussion; presentations
ENGLISH 4615/5615: TEXT IN CONTEXT
Course Title: Infinite Jest
Course Description: I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.… We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. —David Foster Wallace
This course explores the literary, cultural, and intellectual legacy of David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), widely considered by admirers and detractors alike to be among the most influential and important writers of his generation. In particular we will study his magnum opus, Infinite Jest (1996), twenty years old this year, a book which not only continues to speak with shocking relevance and delightful irreverence to our present, but which seems, in many ways, to have accurately predicted it. Slowly and carefully reading Wallace’s epoch-defining novel together will open up a window on the last twenty years of American life, letters, entertainment, and art, while the unavoidable shadow cast by his 2008 suicide will raise important questions for us about literary celebrity, biographical criticism, and the often troubled relationship between public personae and the real, lived lives of writers and artists.
Readings: David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest; coursepack
Assignments: seminar paper (12-15 pages); two “thinkpiece”-length “mini-papers”; online reading journal; active class participation; presentations