Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘magic

Ain’t No Sunday Like an MLA Sunday Links

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* In case you missed them: the syllabi for my spring classes, which start tomorrow.

* Meanwhile MLA saves its best panel for last: 759. Guilty Pleasures: Late Capitalism and Mere Genre. Today at 1:45!

On March 11-12, 2015, the Humanities Division at Essex County College will host its Spring 2015 Conference, “Speculative Humanities: Steampunk to Afrofuturism.” This two-day conference offers space for writers, musicians, artists, and academicians to explore, expand upon, and rethink the implications of speculative humanities. This year’s conference will feature a special emphasis on the life, work, and influence of Octavia E. Butler.

* #MLA: An Economist’s Critique of Job Market for English Ph.D.s.

* The MLA should give Jonathan Goodwin a Lifetime Achievement Award for this post about midcentury MLA job ads. Check out his Twitter feed for more.

* Really, though, huge shoutout to all the literary critics heading home today.


* #FreeCommunityCollege. Did Obama Just Introduce a ‘Public Option’ for Higher Education? Angus is happy. Who Has a Stake in Obama’s Free Community-College Plan? Of course, it’s a Republican plan. And there’s a catch. Or two.

Contingent Faculty and #FreeCommunityCollege.

$18 billion in job training = lots of trained unemployed people.

* The logic of the increment.

Sometimes you don’t get a sales pitch. It’s none of your business, it’s reactionary to even ask the question, it’s an assertion of privilege, something’s got to be done and what have you been doing that’s better? Sometimes you get a sales pitch and it’s all about will and not about intellect: everybody has to believe in fairies or Tinkerbell will die. The increments sometimes make no sense. This leads to that leads to what? And what? And then? Why? Or perhaps most frustrating of all, each increment features its own underlying and incommensurable theories about why things happen in the world: in this step, people are motivated by self-interest; in the next step, people are motivated by basic decency; in the next step, people are motivated by fear of punishment. Every increment can’t have its own social theory. That’s when you know that the only purpose is the action itself, not the thing it’s trying to accomplish.

Securitization, risk management, and the new university.

Administrators, Authority, and Accountability.

Militancy, Antagonism, and Power: Rethinking Intellectual Labor, Relocating the University.

As leverage, Silvia Federici outlines the two-part process of demanding a wage for previously uncompensated labor. The first step is recognition, but the ultimate goal is refusal. “To say that we want money for housework” she says, “is the first step towards refusing to do it, because the demand for a wage makes our work visible, which is the most indispensable condition to begin to struggle against it, both in its immediate aspect as housework and its more insidious character as femininity” (Wages Against Housework). Another way to say this is: it is only with the option of refusal that not-publishing is meaningful.

It is clear that “publish or perish” is undergoing a speedup like all other capitalist work. We must all struggle for a re-valorization of living labor. And in the first step against publication’s command over living labor, we agree with Federici, who demands that “From now on we want money for each moment of it, so that we can refuse some of it and eventually all of it” (Wages Against Housework).

* Lessons from Vermont: What does Vermont’s failed single-payer plan tell us about future reform efforts?

* Exclusive: Prosecutor in Serial Goes On the Record.

The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Here’s a map of where those prisoners live.

* Scenes from the class struggle inside the National Radio Quiet Zone.

* Debt collection as autoimmune disease.

Male Senators Banned Women From Senate Pool So They Could Swim Naked. Until 2008.

* Wow. F.B.I. and Justice Dept. Said to Seek Charges for Petraeus.

“It’s clear he hasn’t been very lucky with the ladies the last few months,” West said of his client.

* Nightmare terror attacks in Nigeria using ten-year-old girls as suicide bombers.

* Run, Bernie, run?

* Clocks Are Too Precise (and People Don’t Know What to Do About It).

* Great moments in matte paintings, at io9. I had no idea the warehouse from Raiders was a matte either, though in retrospect of course it was.

New research is first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2C, including over 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands.

* Rave drug shows great promise in treating depression once thought resistant to drug therapy. I hope they found some way to control for the curative effects of glowsticks.

How Wes Anderson’s Cinematographer Shot These 9 Great Scenes.

* Here comes Wet Hot American Summer: The Prequel Series.

* The kids aren’t all right: Millennials Are Less Racially Tolerant Than You Think.

* “Men, what would you be willing to give up to live a couple decades longer?”

* Dad creates drawings based off of quotes from his toddler daughter.

* How LEGO became the Apple of toys.

We Wish These Retrofuturistic Versions Of American Cities Had Come True.

* Every episode of Friends at the same time.

* And exciting loopholes I think we can all believe in: “He was doing research for a film,” said Sherrard. “It’s not a crime; it’s artwork… He’s an intellectual.”


Written by gerrycanavan

January 11, 2015 at 9:00 am

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New Syllabi This Spring: “Video Game Culture” and “Magic and Literature”

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As I get ready to head out to MLA, I thought I’d post my two new syllabi for this semester, HONORS 2953: Video Game Culture and ENGLISH 3000: Magic and Literature. (My Cultural Preservation course hasn’t changed all that much, but you can see the new website here.)

Here’s the meat of both, the week-by-week schedules, as well as the “What Is English 3000?” explanation for those who don’t know the history behind this course…

#1 ENGLISH 3000


ENGLISH 3000 is a new course, emerging out of the English’s department recent redesign of its curriculum, which is intended to serve as a gateway to 4000-level study in the discipline (as well as in the humanities more generally). The previous major had tended to silo different historical periods, forms, genres, and methodological approaches each within their own courses, constructing an intellectually diverse curriculum primarily through the juxtaposition of the various course requirements. In contrast, the new major loosens those requirements and chooses instead to put the different perspectives together within a single course, in an effort to promote shared conversations and collective interests across the English major while also allowing students more freedom to define a course of study that truly matters to them. This, of course, is ENGLISH 3000, which was taught for the first time in Fall 2014.

The plan is for the ENGLISH 3000 sections to gather together a variety of literary forms (poetry, drama, prose fiction, film, and so on) from a variety of historical periods (ours runs from Shakespeare to Harry Potter) and explore them through a variety of critical perspectives and interpretive lenses (we study feminism, Marxism, postcoloniality, queer theory, genre theory, New Criticism, structuralism, disability studies, and reader response). Our conversations will thus become richer and denser as we go, as we build a shared vocabulary for our critical interventions. In the process, we will also be able to explore a number of the multiple writing styles and publishing venues that are available to literary-minded thinkers today: creative writing and academic writing, of course, but also journalistic writing, popular criticism, the personal blog, fan criticism, and even fan fiction. I hope you will find these examples inspirational as you think about the possibilities for your own writing in the future.

Professors teaching ENGLISH 3000 each choose some wide-ranging but ultimately unifying theme to structure their courses; while we might have studied literature and medicine, or literature and science, or literature and the law, the theme I have selected for our section of this course this semester is “magic and literature.” This theme is present in some way or another through every literary text we will encounter, from the vaunted heights of the literary canon to culturally suspect and supposedly frivolous works of genre fiction (again: Shakespeare to Harry Potter).

Although ENGLISH 3000 shares some similarities with our sophomore-level courses, including its consideration of multiple authors and historical periods and the use of a “theme” as an organizing principle, ENGLISH 3000 should not be thought of as an introductory or remedial course, nor as a free-form general-interest survey; rather, it is an opportunity for you to meet together as emerging literary scholars to figure out what you think defines (and what should define) literary study in the twenty-first century. The conversations we begin here will, I hope, ripple across all the courses you take in the English department at Marquette.



            Concepts: New Criticism, Structuralism


            Concept: Postcoloniality


            Concept: Marxism, Genre, Allegory, Utopia


            Concept: Feminism


            Concept: Cultural Studies, Queer Theory, Disability Studies, Reader Response


Day-by-Day Schedule

W January 14 W.H. Auden, “So An Age Ended…” [D2L]
Arthur Rimbaud, “After the Flood” [D2L]
W January 21 New Criticism
How To Interpret Literature: “New Criticism”
Robert Frost, “Mending Wall” [D2L]
M January 26 Structuralism
How to Interpret Literature, “Structuralism”
Dan Harmon, “Story Circle 101” [online]
J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories” [D2L]
in-class discussion: The Lord of the Rings (film and book)
W January 28 William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I
M February 2 The Tempest, Acts II-III
W February 4 The Tempest, Acts IV-V
M February 9 Postcoloniality
How to Interpret Literature, “Postcolonial and Race Studies”
Heather MacDonald, “The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity” [online]
Natalia Cecire, “Humanities Scholarship Is Incredibly Relevant, and That Makes People Sad” [online]
W February 11 Postcolonial Commentary on The Tempest
George Lamming, “A Monster, A Child, A Slave”
Barbara Fuchs, “Conquering Islands: Contextualizing The Tempest”
M February 16 Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapters 1-5
W February 18 Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapters 6-10
M February 23 Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapters 11-15
W February 25 Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chapters 16-20
Gabriel García Márquez, “The Solitude of Latin America”
M March 2 Marxism
How to Interpret Literature, “Marxism”
Gregory Lawrence, “Marx in Macondo” [D2L]
W March 4 Tools and Methods: Genre, Allegory, and Utopia
Fredric Jameson, “Radical Fantasy” [D2L]
Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” [D2L]
M March 16 Feminism
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper” [D2L]
How to Interpret Literature, “Feminism”
W March 18 The Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (excerpt) [D2L]
Neil Gaiman, “The Problem of Susan” [D2L]
M March 23 Cultural Studies
How to Interpret Literature, “Historicism and Cultural Studies”
David Forgacs, “Disney Animation and the Business of Childhood” [D2L]
Lili Loofbourow, “Just Another Princess Movie” [online]
W March 25 Queer Studies
How to Interpret Literature, “Queer Studies”
Google Search: “queer reading of Frozen” [Google]
M March 30 Disability Studies
Frozen continued
How to Interpret Literature, “Disability Studies”
Su Holmes, “Cold and Hungry: Discourses of Anorexic Femininity in Frozen” [online]
ZebraGal, “Let It Go—Autism Version” [YouTube]
W April1 Readers and Fandoms
Frozen continued
How to Interpret Literature, “Reader Response”
Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling 101” [online]
W April 8 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter 1-4 review and discussion
M April 13 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
W April 15 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
M April 20 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
W April 22 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix




Tuesday, January 13 START FIRST DAY OF CLASS
Tuesday, January 20 PLAY Game: The Stanley Parable
Corey Mohler, Existential Comics: “Candyland and the Nature of the Absurd”
Tuesday, January 27 RULES Alexander Galloway, Gaming: “Gamic Action, Four Moments”
Tuesday, February 3 ART Roger Ebert, “Doom,” “Critics vs. Games on Doom,” “Why Did The Chicken Cross the Genders,” “Video Games Can Never Be Art”
Ian Bogost, “Art”
Tuesday, February 10 CRITIQUE Game: Braid
Patrick Jagoda, “Fabulously Procedural: Braid, Historical Processing, and the Videogame Sensorium”
Tuesday, February 17 COGNITION Stephen Johnson, Everything Bad Is Good for You (excerpt)
Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken (excerpt)
Short: “Play”
Tuesday, February 24 HABIT Game: Tetris
Ian Bogost, “Habituation”
Chris Higgins, “Playing to Lose”
Sam Anderson, “Just One More Game…”
Tuesday, March 3 OBSESSION Film: The King of Kong
Tuesday, March 17 VIOLENCE Game: Portal
Short: “Duty Calls”
Alexander Galloway, Gaming: “Origins of the First Person Shooter” and “Social Realism”
Tuesday, March 24 MASCULINITY Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Greig de Peuter, “Designing Militarized Masculinity: Violence, Gender, and the Bias of Game Experience”
Todd VanDerWerff, “#GamerGate: Here’s why everybody in the video game world is fighting”
Tuesday, March 31 MASTERY Game: FreeCiv
Alexander Galloway, Gaming: “Allegories of Control”
Trevor Owens, “Sid Meier’s Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?”
u/Lycerius, “I’ve Been Playing the Same Game of Civilization II for Almost 10 Years. This Is the Result.”
Tuesday, April 7 IDEOLOGY Game: SimCity
Ava Kofman, “Les Simerables”
Mike Sterry, “The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City”
Tuesday, April 14 FREEMIUM Game: Candy Crush
Ramin Shokrizade, “The Top F2P Monetization Tricks”
June Thomas, “Sugar Coma”
Julia Lepetit and Andrew Bridgman, “The Most Realistic Game Ever”
Ian Bogost, “Rage Against the Machines” and Cow Clicker
Tuesday, April 21 GAMIFICATION Lifehacker, “Gamify Your Life: A Guide to Incentivizing Everything”
Michelle Greenwald, “Gamification in Everything”
Dan Schawbel, “How Gamification Is Going To Change The Workplace”
Ian Bogost, “Why Gamification Is Bullshit”
Short: “Sight”
Tuesday, April 28 COUNTERGAMING Games:
Alexander Galloway, Gaming: “Countergaming”


Classes start after my red-eye from Vancouver Sunday night…

Friday Links!

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* The Department of Education is surprisingly frank about how impossible it is to turn Obama’s gibberish on education into a usable ratings system. And here is the tentative list of stats colleges must now juke.

Serial missed its chance to show how unfair the criminal justice system really is. What Serial really taught us.

* Aaron Bady interviews Sofia Samatar on steampunk, Afrofuturism, science fiction, and more. The latest in his Post45 series.

Marquette says it hasn’t suspended professor John McAdams.

* The best list like this I’ve seen: 5 Reasons To Study The Humanities.

* Uber is a terrible idea.

Uber claims Done wasn’t even the driver who was supposed to pick the woman up, and points out that he passed a background check before he started driving for them.

So did the L.A. driver charged with kidnapping and rape, the San Francisco driver charged with hitting a passenger in the head with a hammer, and another San Francisco driver accused of assault who turned out to have prior felony convictions and was on parole for a previous battery charge.

* But in statehouses across the country, Uber has fought against legislation requiring background checks as strong as those demanded of traditional taxis. Other ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Sidecar, Uber’s chief rivals, have also pushed against the laws, but supporters of stronger background checks say Uber has been by far the most aggressive.

The Winning Images From National Geographic‘s 2014 Photo Contest.

* The very last Colbert. RIP. Today marks the exact moment this stops being a relevant reference for students, so expect to see it fade from classrooms around 2027.

* And I too wish my snowman were alive.


Wednesday Night Links!

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* How Bad Was It? Mitch McConnell Triumphant. Losers, not unlucky. And they probably managed to pre-lose the Senate in 2016 in the bargain. If you want a vision of the future. Decision 2014: The Higher-Ed Outlook. The biggest loser in this election is climate (as always). President Obama Has Earned Our Disapproval.

* Amazon wants to give you ten dollars: Spend $45 or More on Select Amazon Gift Cards, Get a $10 Promotional Credit for Yourself.

* I’ve seen some really polarizing opinions on this piece today: Confessions of a Young, Prolific Academic. I understand why people aren’t on board, but all the same I’m attracted to pieces that present the joyful side of academic work.

* Ecotopia today: Esteemed evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson believes the only way we can avoid a catastrophic mass extinction is to set aside half of the planet in permanently protected areas for the 10 million other species who live on Earth.

* 21 Photos Of Nature Winning The Battle Against Civilization.


Writing the future: A timeline of science fiction literature.

It seems like every 30-something couple has an embarrassing financial secret: their boomer parents are covering their mortgages, child-care costs and other expenses. The Bank of Mom and Dad: confessions of a propped up generation.

New Bill Watterson Comic Is A Simple But Perfect Celebration Of Comics.


* Alone as a queer, young, black sci-fi nerd: then I discovered Samuel Delany.

* Why Banksy Is (Probably) a Woman.

* Uber defends price surge that charged Durham man $455 on Halloween.

* Prequelism infects David Chase. There is still no cure. Won’t you give what you can today?

* Why Isn’t Hogwarts Using All That Magic To Explore Space? It’s a Kind of Magic. Like Methods of Rationality minus the cult (and one page instead of ten thousand).

And Dartmouth Professors Vote to Abolish Greek System. Nonbinding, purely symbolic, but points for trying…


Thursday Links!

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* Marquette English Spring 2015 courses! I’m teaching a section of 3000 (our new intro to major — mine is themed around magic) and the second round of my NEH “Cultural Preservation” course. I’m also doing a honors seminar on “video game culture” that I’m really excited about, GamerGate notwithstanding.

* A rare spot of optimism: Lockheed announces breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy.

* But don’t hang on to it: It’s time to push the panic button on the global economy. Markets are panicking again. What’s going on?

Sea Level Rising Faster Than Anytime In 6,000 Years, Study Finds.

* WHO: 10,000 new Ebola cases per week could be seen. The CDC is apparently taking the over. One thing is certain: it’s time to panic.

* Another Obama triumph for the left: let a thousand wage thefts bloom.

The Assassination of Detroit.

* Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits. Neoliberalism, Higher Education, and the Rise of Contingent Faculty Labor.

* Identifying The Worst Colleges In America.

* Could Oculus Rift be the next great higher education boondoggle?

* In Taste of Autonomy, Sports Programs Now Battle for Athletes’ Bellies.

The most alarming thing I’ve heard from friends who’ve had miscarriages is their surprise (only upon miscarrying) at hearing about how many of their friends, aunts, cousins, sisters, mothers and grandmothers have had them, too. If miscarriages are so common, why do we hide them behind a wall of shame and silence?

* What It’s Really Like to Have an Abortion.

* The radical teamsters of Minneapolis showed what democratic unionism looks like.

* “Most schools’ internal judicial systems are the worst of both worlds,” Berkowitz said. “They don’t give the accused the protections of the criminal justice system, and they mistreat the victims, too.”

For example, even into the 1980s, some doctors didn’t believe that babies felt pain and so routinely did surgery on them using just muscle relaxants to keep them still. Pain and medicine.

* Guy Debord’s The Muppets. More links below Gonzo.


* “You had one job” screwup of the week.

* South Carolina governor levels outrageous accusation against the nation’s CEOs, says they’re all white supremacists. Huge if true.

* Study claims that whales and dolphins can speak to one another.

* DC has a bit hit on its hands with The Flash, so of course the smart move here is to recast for the film.

* Father, there’s a gateway to Narnia in the closet!

The Absolute Weirdest Thing Ever To Happen At A Political Debate.

How A California Man Was Forced To Spend 100 Days In Prison For Being An Atheist.

* Next week: Civilization: Beyond Earth.

* Behold! The Counter-Intuitivist!

* And we are all Bartleby now.


Thursday Links!

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* Some seriously great news for my particular demographic: Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed Mars Trilogy is colonizing TV.

* Flooding risk from climate change, country by country. Meanwhile: World’s Cities All Becoming Teeming Hellscapes.

* A brief history of mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic.

* A History of The Lord of the Rings in Video Games.

* LARoB considers the criminally underrated Chronicles of Pyrdain and the night genre was born.

* Age discrimination and adjuncts. I still think this is a seriously underreported story considering how dramatically it would change the landscape of hiring in higher education if it were to prevail.

While surely a simple economic determinism would be distorting, it should still be clear that the epistemic and cultural divide between the “hard” sciences and the humanities cannot be easily disentangled from a noticeable financial divide.

* How For-Profit Universities Make a Killing By Exploiting College Dreams.

* Udacity has moved on to a new scam: nanodegrees.

* Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror.

* “Reluctant Warrior Bombs Yet Another Country.”

* FSU chooses a politician as its new president despite major opposition from faculty and students. From the archives: FSU to phase out academic operations.

* Head’s up, math geeks: big discovery about prime numbers.

* Chimpanzees Raised by Humans Have Social Difficulties With Other Chimps.

* Listen, it’s about yardage: FiveThirtyEight provides the cheat sheet necessary for me to interact with other Wisconsinites.

* ESPN suspends Bill Simmons for repeating ESPN’s own reporting about the NFL and drawing the only possible conclusion.

* 15.4% growth of Harvard’s endowment brings the total to a cool $36 billion, assuring Harvard’s continued existence for another year. And thank goodness.

* I think I’ve discovered a way to precrastinate my procrastination, which means I’m always so late I never bother to get off the couch.

* Science proves no one is allowed to have any fun: Researcher shows that black holes do not exist.

* Fraternities finally look in the mirror and confront the enemy within: drunk female guests. Should we ban frats?

* What it’s like to be struck by lightning. What it’s like to lose your memory at 22.

* Please don’t ever drive and text.

* And if you want a vision of the future, imagine Mitt Romney running for president, forever.

Spring 2015 Course Description (Already): “Magic and Literature”

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ENGLISH 3000: Critical Practices and Processes in Literary Studies

Thematic Title: Magic and Literature

Description: This course serves as an introduction to the English major, using literary depictions of magic from William Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling as its organizing principle. We will consider the ways a wide range of authors have taken up magic from a variety of critical perspectives, from feminist and Marxist analysis to genre criticism to postcolonial theory and beyond, as well as consider the possibilities and limits of reading “magic” allegorically. What is the relationship between magic and religion on the one hand, and magic and science on the other? How do stories about magic suggest powerful critiques of Western technologies of power and ways of thinking? Conversely, how do they reinforce our positions as good subjects of democratic capitalism? Why are stories about magic, and fantasy more generally, still largely understood as belonging to children’s literature, even as related speculative genres like science fiction and superheroes have enjoyed a renaissance of “serious” critical attention? For that matter, why does our society persist in raising its children in such magical worlds, only to finally spit them out as adults into this one? This course will help students develop fluency with academic discourses and habits of literary criticism that will serve them in their upper-division courses as Marquette, as well as develop their skills as writers and thinkers in their own right.

Readings will include The Tempest, Doctor Faustus, Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Turn of the Screw, “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Franz Kafka, Gabriel García Márquez, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, J.R.R. Tolkien, Junot Díaz, Nalo Hopkinson, Disney’s Brave and Frozen, Marvel’s Dr. Strange, The Chronicles of Narnia, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dungeons & Dragons, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Assignments: two shorter papers, one final paper, weekly forum posts, class participation


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