Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’
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
So here’s what I found slipped under my office door this morning, as a kind of warning for the fall, or perhaps even as a threat…
* Posted earlier this morning: The Lives of Animals, Part Two and My Upcoming Courses at Marquette. And apropos of that second link, and today’s start of Infinite Winter: Everything About Everything: David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ at 20.
* UC Berkeley faculty members are buzzing over news that University of California President Janet Napolitano ordered the installation of computer hardware capable of monitoring all e-mails going in and out of the UC system. More from Remaking the University.
* The President says he’s talking about opportunities, but he’s also talking about outcomes. It’s one thing to want all kids to have access to advanced classes, music instruction, sports teams and volunteer work. It’s another to expect them to take advantage of all of them at the same time. President Obama described Antonio as “doing his part” with his full load of curricular and extracurricular activities, but every student can’t be prepared for college: There just aren’t enough seats. Because admission is limited and competitive, only the top two-thirds or so can be, by definition, prepared for higher education. No matter how hard they work, how brilliant they are, the lowest-scoring cohort will be labeled unprepared and accused of not “doing their part.”
* The university in ruins: The number of job postings the AHA received in 2014-15 was down 8 percent from the prior year. This is the third straight year for which the association is reporting a decline. Job listings are down 45 percent from the 1,064 that the association reported in 2011-12.
* Less than $1 of every $100 in revenue generated by major college athletic departments at public colleges is directed to academic programs, according to a Chronicle analysis of NCAA financial statements.
* We’ll never know for sure exactly what The Owl In Daylight would have looked like had Philip lived to put the story to paper, but it sounds like it would have been a rare happy ending in the Dick canon. “He considered this a sort of capstone to his career,” Tessa says. “The first novel that ends on a note of hope and love.”
* Matt Yglesias is Making Sense: This is a party that has no viable plan for winning the House of Representatives, that’s been pushed to a historic low point in terms of state legislative seats, and that somehow lost the governor’s mansions in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
It’s a party, in other words, that was clearly in need of some dialogue, debate, and contestation over what went wrong and how to fix it. But instead of encouraging such a dialogue, the party tried to cut it off.
* Fan theory of the week: “Leia was sent to Tatooine not only to recruit Obi-Wan but also to be trained as a Jedi.”
* Game of the week: From the makers of the fantastic rymdkapsel, Twofold, Inc.
* And I truly find every aspect of this just totally mind-boggling: At Simon Fraser U, professors were stunned by video university posted on its website that suggested female faculty members could be viewed as sex objects — in the name of saving energy.
* I’m at MLA this week, giving a paper on Saturday evening on Richard McGuire’s fantastic graphic novel Here for a panel on “The Anthropocene and Deep Time in Literary Studies.”
* Facebook ran experiment to see how long users would wait before giving up and going elsewhere, but people ‘never stopped coming back.’
* Keywords for the Age of Austerity 24: Sullen. Also, here’s John Pat’s current syllabus on Innovation: A Cultural History of the Contemporary Concept.
* I think this one is old, but maybe it’s not old to you: Soc 710: Social Theory through Complaining.
* That’s when New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed an amended lawsuit against the two companies, this time asking for them to give back all the money they made in New York State, to give it back to those who lost money and to pay a fine of up to $5,000 per case.
* Four years later, Liss-Riordan is spearheading class-action lawsuits againstUber, Lyft, and nine other apps that provide on-demand services, shaking the pillars of Silicon Valley’s much-hyped sharing economy. In particular, she is challenging how these companies classify their workers. If she can convince judges that these so-called micro-entrepreneurs are in fact employees and not independent contractors, she could do serious damage to a very successful business model—Uber alone was recently valued at $51 billion—which relies on cheap labor and a creative reading of labor laws.
* Tufts in the news! Researchers Teaching Robots How to Best Reject Orders from Humans.
* The novelistic sublime: Joseph Heller’s handwritten outline for Catch-22.
* Through the looking glass: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin misses last TV deadline for new book.
* The Sherlock special “The Abominable Bride” was terrible. Has this show completely lost its way? My DVR, in a noble effort to save my sanity, opted not to record it.
* When Gene Roddenberry’s computer died, it took with it the only method of accessing some 200 floppy disks of his unpublished work. Here’s how this tech mystery was solved.
* And of course there’s always more Star Wars links: The Feminist Frequency Review. Editing The Force Awakens. Listening to Star Wars. The Original Star Wars Concept Art Is Amazing. A Not-So-Brief History of George Lucas Talking Shit About Disney’s Star Wars. Is Han Solo Force-Sensitive? The Bigger Luke Hypothesis. Cross Sections of TFA Spaceships and Vehicles. Most Citizens of the Star Wars Galaxy are Probably Totally Illiterate. Are droids slaves? Rey & BB8. Reading Anakin Skywalker after Jessica Jones. If you want a vision of the future.
* The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism interviews my friend Ramzi Fawaz about his exciting new book on the X-Men in the 1970s: The New Mutants.
* Whatever happened to Gary Cooper: You’ve heard of women’s studies, right? Well, this is men’s studies: the academic pursuit of what it means to be male in today’s world. Dr. Kimmel is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, which will soon start the first master’s degree program in “masculinities studies.”
* The fire next time: The Pension Crisis at Public Universities.
* The Clinton plan for college. This summary leaves out all the awful disruptivation and neoliberalization stuff that will be part of any actual plan, so it sounds great.
* Widespread use of private email revealed a day after Wise resigns. The Revelations in Phyllis Wise’s Emails. Legal experts react. It’s so bad the board is going to vote on whether to pull her $400,000 golden parachute.
* Comic book movies and the forgotten art of the ending. You heard it here first!
3% takes place in a world where most of the population lives in “Hither”: a decadent, miserable, corrupt place. When people reach 20 years of age, they go through the “Process”, the only chance to get to “Thither” – the better place, with opportunities and promises of a dignified life. Only three percent of the applicants are approved by the Process that will take the applicants to their limit, putting them in terrifying, dangerous situations and testing their convictions through moral dilemmas.
* Point: They clearly should have let Max Landis write Fantastic Four. Counterpoint: The Fantastic Four Are Jerks.
Natalia’s tweet became a whole great blog post on modernism, childhood, and tech.
* Prison-industrial-wildfire complex: Nearly half the people fighting wildfires wreaking havoc across California are prison inmates.
* Sandernistas would do well to reflect on one thing. In a few months’ time, Sanders’s campaign will be gone. He will not win. … But Black Lives Matter, or rather the movement with which it has become synonymous, isn’t going to go away. And it is far more important to America’s long-term future. A useful corrective, I think, though my intuition remains that this is one brand of underpantsgnomism competing with another for underpants-gnome supremacy.
* Diseases of the twenty-first century: Foot Orgasm Syndrome.
* This could actually be interesting: Harvard Professor Larry Lessig To Explore Democratic Presidential Run.
* Because you demanded it: Werner Herzog’s Ant-Man.
* And while the lion still remains at large, Milwaukee remembers its polar bear.
* The end of UW: Gov. Scott Walker to propose 13 percent cut, more freedom for UW System. UW System predicts layoffs, no campus closings under budget cuts. Layoffs, Building Closures, Slowdown on Admissions. But “few details.”
Giving students access to an important, brilliant, historically significant corpus of art seems to be an entirely appropriate activity for the undergraduate classroom at a university. After you have taken a Zombie Course, you may discover you have actually just taken a Great Books (or in the case of Ware, a Great Box) course without realizing it, and you may also decide that any Great Books course worthy of its name cannot afford to ignore the recent surge of brilliant zombie art. If anything, we need more Zombie Courses than we have, and one hopes — in time — even full-blown Zombie Majors (or at the least Zombie Double-Majors).
* “What I would say about the university today,” he says, “is that we’re living through an absolutely historic moment – namely the effective end of universities as centres of humane critique, an almost complete capitulation to the philistine and sometimes barbaric values of neo-capitalism.”
* Punch-Drunk Jonathan Chait Takes On the Entire Internet. It’s a terrible op-ed that makes an important point badly in the midst of saying a bunch of incorrect things, all in the service of a fundamentally bad framing — so of course it’s all we can talk about.
It was a guardianship petition filed by the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, asking the court to give a stranger full legal power over Mrs. Palermo, now 90, and complete control of her money.
Few people are aware that a nursing home can take such a step.
* One aspect of that danger is the “abstract authority” of astrologers, now mirrored by the black-box algorithms of the cloud. The opacity of the analytic method lends forecasts their appearance of authoritative objectivity. In “Astrological Forecasts”, Adorno notes “the mechanics of the astrological system are never divulged and the readers are presented only with the alleged results of astrological reasoning.” “Treated as impersonal and thing-like,” stars appear “entirely abstract, unapproachable, and anonymous” and thus more objective than mere fallible human reason. Similarly, as Kate Crawford pointed out in an essay about fitness trackers for the Atlantic, “analytics companies aren’t required to reveal which data sets they are using and how they are being analyzed.” The inaccessible logic of their proprietary algorithms is imposed on us, and their inscrutability masquerades as proof of their objectivity. As Crawford argues, “Prioritizing data—irregular, unreliable data—over human reporting, means putting power in the hands of an algorithm.” As Adorno puts it, “The cult of God has been replaced by the cult of facts.”
* Today, more U.S. women die in childbirth and from pregnancy-related causes than at almost any point in the last 25 years. The United States is the one of only seven countries in the entire world that has experienced an increase in maternal mortality over the past decade.
* I linked to a story about this the other day, but here’s the resolution: Vanderbilt Football Players Found Guilty of Raping Unconscious Student. Of course the next horrifying story in this wretched, endless series is already queued up.
* American Sniper focuses in tight on one man’s story of trauma, leaving out the complex questions of why Kyle was in Iraq being traumatized in the first place. The Iraqis in the film are villains, caricatures, and targets, and the only real opinion on them the film offers is Kyle’s. The Iraqis are all “savages” who threaten American lives and need to be killed. There’s some truth in this representation, insofar as this is how a lot of American soldiers thought. Yet the film obviates the questions of why any American soldiers were in Iraq, why they stayed there for eight years, why they had to kill thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians, and how we are to understand the long and ongoing bloodbath once called the “war on terror.” It does that precisely by turning a killer into a victim, a war hero into a trauma hero.
* Freakishly Old System Of Planets Hint At Ancient Alien Civilizations. Okay, I’m in for three films with an option on a television reboot.
* Vulture says Jason Segel is good as David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour, but I’ll never accept it.
* It’s finally happening, and of course it’s starting in Florida: ‘Zombie cat’ crawls out of grave.
* And while this may be of interest only to those whose children have made them watch untold hours of Dora the Explorer, it’s certainly of interest to me: Swiper the Fox has a totally bananas backstory.