Posts Tagged ‘my teaching empire’
* Also in Marquette news! Marquette to host ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ conference in April.
* Becoming a parent forces you to think about the nature of the problem — which is, in a lot of ways, the problem of nature […] the realities of aging and sickness and mortality become suddenly inescapable. […] [My wife] said something during that time I will never forget. “If I had known how much I was going to love him,” she said, “I’m not sure I would have had him.” Mark O’Connell on transhumanism and immortality.
* From the great Ali Sperling: Reading Lovecraft in the Anthropocene. And this review of Alan Moore’s Jerusalem from the great David Higgins!
* The liberal arts at Harvey Mudd College, whose graduates out-earn Harvard and Stanford.
* Chaos, again. This is fine. Even James Comey. Twilight of Reince Preibus. Ten Questions for President Trump. Ten More Questions for President Trump. Remember when it was scandalous that Obama, years before he became a politician, once sold his house?
* It is through the Justice Department that the administration is likely to advance its nationalist plans — to strengthen the grip of law enforcement, raise barriers to voting and significantly reduce all forms of immigration, promoting what seems to be a longstanding desire to reassert the country’s European and Christian heritage. It’s not an accident that Sessions, who presumably could have chosen from a number of plum assignments, opted for the role of attorney general. The Department of Justice is the most valuable perch from which to transform the country in the way he and Bannon have wanted. With an exaggerated threat of disorder looming, the nation’s top law-enforcement agency could become a machine for trying to fundamentally change who gets to be an American and what rights they can enjoy.
* The emerging effort — dozens more rules could be eliminated in the coming weeks — is one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades. It is the leading edge of what Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, described late last month as “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
* An Afghan family of five that had received approval to move to the United States based on the father’s work for the American government has been detained for more than two days after flying into Los Angeles International Airport, a legal advocacy group said in court documents filed on Saturday. Profiles of immigrant arrested in Austin. Thousands of ICE detainees claim they were forced into labor, a violation of anti-slavery laws. (Note this lawsuit was filed in 2014.) This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World. And if it were a book, it’d seem laughably contrived: A letter written in 1905 by Friedrich Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, to Luitpold, prince regent of Bavaria. Resisting ICE. Here we go again.
* And while we’re on the subject: The Basic Formula For Every Shocking Russia/Trump Revelation. I think this is a very good reminder of the need to stay calm and detached from the chaos of the news cycle.
* Instead, a new model is proposed: the president keeps everyone in a constant state of excitement and alarm. He moves fast and breaks things. He leads by causing commotion. As energy in the political system rises he makes no effort to project calm or establish an orderly White House. And if he keeps us safe it’s not by being himself a safe, steady, self-controlled figure, but by threatening opponents and remaining brash and unpredictable— maybe a touch crazy. This too is psychological work, but of a different kind.
* Democrats keep trusting demographics to save them. It hasn’t worked yet — but maybe this time…
* Austerity measures don’t actually save money. But they do disempower workers. Which is why governments pursue them in the first place.
* No! It can’t be! Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win.
* “These devices don’t have emotional intelligence,” said Allison Druin, a University of Maryland professor who studies how children use technology. “They have factual intelligence.” How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants.
But these second-order obstacles aren’t enough to explain the current collapse of poll-driven political certainty. They’re just excuses, even if they’re not untrue. Something about the whole general scheme of polling—the idea that you can predict what millions of undecided voters will do by selecting a small group and then just simply asking them—is out of whack. We need to think seriously about what the strange game of election-watching actually is, in terms of our relation to the future, our power to choose our own outcomes, the large-scale structure of the universe, and the mysteries of fate. And these questions are urgent. Because predictions of the future don’t simply exist in the future, but change the way we act in the present. Because in our future something monstrous is rampaging: it paces hungrily toward us, and we need to know if we’ll be able to spot it in time.
When I said that opinion polls are sibyls and soothsayers, it wasn’t just a figure of speech. Opinion polling has all the trappings of a science—it has its numbers and graphs, its computational models, its armies of pallid drones poring over the figures. It makes hypotheses and puts them to the test. But polls are not taken for what they are: a report on what a small number of people, fond of changing their minds, briefly pretended to think. Instead, we watch the tracking graphs as if the future were playing itself out live in front of us. The real structure of the electoral-wonk complex is more mystical than materialist: it’s augury and divination, a method handed down by Prometheus to a starving and shivering humanity at the faint dawn of time. Behind all the desktop screens and plate-glass of his office, the buzz of data and the hum of metrics, Nate Silver retreats to a quiet, dark, and holy room. He takes the knife and slits in one stroke the throat of a pure-white bull; its blood arcs and drizzles in all directions. He examines its patterns. And he knows.
* There’s a never-ending fount of stories you can write about when someone is breaking away from canon or not, and create many controversies all the way through preproduction and production and even until a movie opens, about whether or not they’re breaking canon. Is it a blasphemous movie or not? At some point, you gotta stop and say, Is there this expectation that it’s like we’re doing Godfather Part I and II, only it’s going to nine movies? And we’re just gonna cut them into this kind of Berlin Alexanderplatz that never ends? We’re gonna suddenly take a moment to really savor the fact that these movies exist in an identical tone? The reality to me is that you can’t have interesting movies if you tell a filmmaker, “Get in this bed and dream, but don’t touch the pillows or move the blankets.” You will not get cinema. You will just get a platform for selling the next movie on that bed, unchanged and unmade. James Mangold on Logan.
ENGLISH 2010: Literature and Genre
Thematic Title: Science Fiction and Genre
Course Description: What is a “genre”? How does the idea of genre impact the way we read and understand literary texts? In this course we will explore these questions by studying the development of the science fiction genre in the twentieth century. What defines science fiction? What makes science fiction different from other sorts of fictions, or other types of texts? Does the name “science fiction” designate a certain set of intellectual concerns, a certain set of narrative and visual clichés, even perhaps a certain type of reader? Is it all just a marketing strategy? What makes one text “science fiction,” another text “literary fiction,” and still other texts “fantasy,” “horror,” or “fairy tale”? Does science fiction imply a certain type of politics, or a particular sort of ethics? Can it teach us anything? Is it good for us or bad for us? We will draw from a wide variety of short stories, comics, novels, games, television series, and films as our archive as we seek to understand how science fiction has adapted and thrived as a genre, even as the “real world” itself becomes more and more indistinguishable from science fiction with each passing year.
Readings: Octavia Butler, Dawn; Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others; Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead vols. 1 & 2; coursepack
Assignments: Midterm, final project, in-class presentations, class participation, and weekly responses
ENGLISH 6800: STUDIES IN GENRE
Thematic Title: The Law of Genre
Course Description: The law of genre, Derrida wrote, is “a principle of contamination, a law of impurity, a parasitical economy.” While genres may initially appear to us to be discrete, even obvious publishing and marketing categories, in fact these boundaries are often incredibly fluid, and difficult to define or police. In this special summer session course we will thus explore texts that operate at the weird intersections of genres — texts which seem to operate in more than one generic mode, or which switch fluidly or unexpectedly between genres, or which challenge our understanding of the aesthetic structures, commercial pressures, and political-ethical assumptions that undergird our generic categories. The course includes both literary and popular texts, allowing us to explore how genre circulates within multiple contexts and communities of discourse; in lieu of a traditional seminar paper, your assignments will be directed instead towards the generation of teaching materials and “thinkpiece”-style mini-papers, potentially suitable for publication at digital outlets or as review essays in scholarly journals.
Readings: I am open to suggestions for substitutions based on student interest, but the current planned book list for the course is Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, China Mieville’s The City and the City, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Nabokov’s Lolita,and J.K. Rowling’s The Cursed Child. We will also explore short stories from Flannery O’Connor, H.P. Lovecraft, David Foster Wallace, and Donald Barthelme, as well as academic and popular criticism and at least one recent film.
Assignments: Class participation; weekly reading journal; two “thinkpieces” / mini-papers; in-class presentations; sample course syllabi, lesson plans, and statement of teaching philosophy
ENGLISH 4610/5610: INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS
Thematic Title: J.R.R. Tolkien
Course Description: This decade has seen the hundredth anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest writings on Middle-Earth (The Book of Lost Tales, begun in 1917) alongside the completion of Peter Jackson’s career-defining twenty-year project to adapt The Lord of the Rings for film (1995-2015). This course asks the question: Who is J.R.R. Tolkien, looking backward from the perspective of the twenty-first century? Why have his works, and the genre of heroic fantasy that he remade so completely in his image, remained so intensely popular, even as the world has transformed around them? Our study will primarily trace the history, development, and reception of Tolkien’s incredible magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings (written 1937-1949, published 1954-1955)—but we will also take up Tolkien’s often contested place in the literary canon of the twentieth century, the uses and abuses of Tolkien in Jackson’s blockbuster films, the special appeal of Tolkien in politically troubled times, and the ongoing critical interests and investments of Tolkien fandom today. As Tolkien scholars we will also have the privilege of drawing upon the remarkable J.R.R. Tolkien Collection at the Raynor Library here at Marquette, which contains among other treasures the original manuscripts for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Farmer Giles of Ham.
Note: No prior knowledge of Tolkien is required. The course is designed for a mix of first-time readers, frequent re-readers, and people who are returning to the books for the first time as adults after many years away.
Readings: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and selected additional readings
Assignments: final paper or creative project; weekly forum posts; one presentation; enthusiastic and informed class participation
ENGLISH 6700: STUDIES IN 20TH CENTURY LITERATURE
Thematic Title: Utopia in America
2016 marked the 500th anniversary of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which inaugurated a literary genre of political and social speculation that continues to structure our imagination of what is possible. We will read Utopia and selected 19th-century utopian texts from the U.S., as well as consider utopian critical theory from thinkers like Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, Carl Freedman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Buck-Morss, and Michel Foucault. But the major task before us will be exploring the role utopian, quasi-utopian, dystopian, and downright anti-utopian figurations have played in the work of several key canonical writers of the 20th century: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Flannery O’Connor, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick, and Octavia Butler.
Readings: Major texts will include Utopia, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse-Five, Galapagos, Oryx and Crake, The Man in the High Castle, Parable of the Sower, and Parable of the Talents, as well as short stories and critical readings distributed via D2L.
Assignments: class participation; weekly forum posts; in-class presentations; sample course syllabi, lesson plans, and statement of teaching philosophy; seminar paper
UPDATE: Oops, forgot one! It’s not a traditional course, but in the fall I’ll also be doing a twelve-week seminar for the honors program on Hamilton.
HOPR 1953: FIRST-YEAR HONORS SEMINAR
Thematic Title: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton
This twelve-week course is devoted to interdisciplinary study of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash musical Hamilton, looking at the play from a variety of disciplinary perspectives: literary studies, history, cultural studies, theater studies, fine arts, and more. Closely studying the musical first in its entirety and then moving through it track-by-track, we will also explore the unexpectedly wide impact of Hamilton in the larger world of popular culture and national politics, including (in multiple ways) the 2016 presidential election. Why Hamilton? Why *this* Hamilton? And why now? Hamilton’s immense popularity, its rich intertextuality, and its incredible internal structural complexity make it a perfect opportunity to become acquainted with academic methods that will, I hope, serve you well across the rest of your time at Marquette and beyond.
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