Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Never Let Me Go

Summer Classes Syllabi! “Science Fiction” (Sophomore Survey) and “The Law of Genre” (Grad Level)

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This weekend marks the tragic end of my research leave — I’m teaching two summer classes beginning Monday, a newly revamped version of my sophomore survey on science fiction (swapping in Never Let Me Go for Slaughterhouse-Five, Black Mirror for Avatar, and Ted Chiang for basically everything else) and a new graduate-level course on genre studies. I’m excited about both, but especially the grad course, which is laser-focused on books I find interesting.

I pulled back a bit on the writing assignments compared to last year because I think there’s a bit more reading, but some of that reading is deliberately structured as “secondary” so hopefully it won’t feel excessive. Main texts after some reshuffling are Never Let Me Go, The City and the City, Beloved, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Lolita, with guest appearances by Get Out, the Kubrick Lolita, The Twilight Zone, and Donald Barthelme…

Here’s the week-by-week:

M May 22 Introduction to the Course

viral video: “Too Many Cooks” [YouTube]

T May 23 Daniel Chandler, “An Introduction to Genre Theory” [D2L]

Donald Barthelme, “The Joker’s Greatest Triumph!” [D2L]

W May 24 Darko Suvin, “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre” [D2L]

China Miéville, “Cognition as Ideology” [D2L]

(in class) The Twilight Zone: “The Eye of the Beholder” [Netflix]

 

secondary:

Gerry Canavan, “The Suvin Event” [D2L]

Th May 25 John Rieder, “On Defining SF, or Not: Genre Theory, SF, and History” [D2L]

Ted Underwood, “The Life Cycle of Genres” [D2L]

M May 29 MEMORIAL DAY—NO CLASS
T May 30 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Part One)
W June 1 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Part Two)
Th June 2 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Part Three)

 

secondary:

film trailer: The Island [YouTube]

Martin Puchner, review of Never Let Me Go [D2L]

 

LESSON PLAN #1 DUE

M June 5 Carl Freedman, “Marxism, Cinema, and Some Dialectics of Science Fiction and Film Noir” [D2L]

China Miéville, The City and the City (first half of Part One)

T June 6 China Miéville, The City and the City (second half of Part One)
W June 7 China Miéville, The City and the City (Part Two)
Th June 8 China Miéville, The City and the City (whole book)

China Miéville, “Notes on Walls” [Web]

 

secondary:

Carl Freedman, “From Genre to Political Economy: Miéville’s The City & The City and Uneven Development” [D2L]

China Miéville, “Unsolving the City” [Web]

S June 10 THINKPIECE #1 DUE BY 5 PM
M June 12 Toni Morrison, Beloved, pgs. 1-63
T June 13 Toni Morrison, Beloved, pgs. 63-165
W June 14 Toni Morrison, Beloved, whole book

 

secondary:

Carl D. Malmgren, “Mixed Genres and the Logic of Slavery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved” [D2L]

Grady Hendrix, “Beloved: The Best Horror Novel the Horror Genre Has Never Claimed” [D2L]

Elizabeth B. House, “Toni Morrison’s Ghost: The Beloved Who Is Not Beloved” [D2L]

Th June 15 film: Get Out

 

secondary:

Steven Thrasher, representative Get Out thinkpiece [Web]

 

LESSON PLAN #2 DUE

M June 19 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (first half)
T June 20 Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (second half)

Charlotte Sturgess, “The Handmaid as a Romance Heroine” [D2L]

W June 21 Margaret Atwood, “Historical Notes on The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood, “The Road to Ustopia” [Web]

 

secondary:

John McAdams, “Marquette Gender and Sexuality Resource Center: Demonizing Men” [PDF ON D2L]

Margaret Atwood, “What The Handmaid’s Tale Means in the Age of Trump” [Web]

Lili Loofburouw, “How Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale succumbed to the feminist curse” [Web]

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu series)

Th June 22 READING/WRITING DAY—NO CLASS
M June 26 Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita: “Foreword” and Part One, Chapters 1-22
T June 27 Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita: Part One, Chap. 23, through Part Two, Chap. 22
W June 28 Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (whole book, including “On a Book Entitled Lolita”)

Stanley Kubrick, Lolita [Netflix]

Th June 29 VIRTUAL SYLLABUS WORKSHOP DAY! POST YOUR SAMPLE SYLLABUS AND COURSE NARRATIVES ON D2L AND SHARE QUESTIONS, SUGGESTIONS, AND OTHER HELPFUL COMMENTS!
S July 1 THINKPIECE #2 DUE BY 5 PM

Monday Morning Links!

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* A personal announcement: I’ll be the Vice President of the Science Fiction Research Association for the next three years. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

* CFP: “Purple Reign: An interdisciplinary conference on the life and legacy of Prince.”

* Huge, if true: Reading Literature Won’t Give You Superpowers. And meanwhile: What’s Wrong With Literary Studies? Some scholars think the field has become cynical and paranoid. Only some?

Use Data to Make a Strong Case for the Humanities.

* They did it: Army Corps of Engineers Statement Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. More from Vox.

* Is there any branch of literature so insecure, so uncertain of its own status, as science fiction?

Inside the world of Chinese science fiction, with “Three Body Problem” translator Ken Liu.

gerrycanavan_2016-dec-04* Marquette in the ne– oh come on.

* Dan Harmon’s story circle at YouTube.

* Trouble in the Heartland: Listening to Springsteen in Wisconsin in 1979.

* Well, that seems fine: GOP rep: Trump has ‘extra-constitutional’ view of presidency. Donald Trump risks China rift with Taiwan call. BREAKING: US President-elect Trump told Rodrigo Duterte that Philippines was conducting its drug war “the right way.” That’s bad. Trump’s education pick says reform can ‘advance God’s Kingdom.’ What the Nazis were doing was not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next. A People’s History of the Third Reich: How Great Man theory allows us to abdicate collective responsibility. Facts are stupid things: Here’s Where Donald Trump Gets His News. Trump and the coming failed state. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Now Is The Time To Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About. Another visit from the goon squad. Trump and the Bush Legacy.

New SPLC reports reveal alarming pattern of hate incidents and bullying across country since election. Note the category just labeled “Trump —  general.”

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* Identity politics and the alt-right.

Premised on the possibilities of political struggle, here was the Douglass Option: “a party in the Southern States among the poor.”

* Seems like this guy is Trump’s very worst pick, clearing a very tough field:

During a tense gathering of senior officials at an off-site retreat, he gave the assembled group a taste of his leadership philosophy, according to one person who attended the meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss classified matters. Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his. The room fell silent, as employees processed the lecture from their new boss.

Flynn also helped promulgate the “Pizzagate” hoax that nearly led to a mass shooting today.

Google, democracy and the truth about internet search.

* Steve Bannon, on the other hand, is winning me over.

It’s true that racism is a powerful and durable force in our politics. But it is also true that Donald Trump is an incompetent clown who ran an amateurish campaign rife with mistakes. The Democrats should have won this election in a landslide. They did not, and there is no nobility or reassurance for them in a narrow loss in the electoral college or a win in the popular vote. And continuing to insist that a Donald Trump win was either some kind of strange fluke or completely inevitable is a recipe for repeated defeat.

* When the Democrats didn’t like monopolies. On not going high when they go low.

* Can the good parts of Obamacare survive Trump?

* Stealing North Carolina.

* Italy votes no.

Friedman just got finished telling us that a black elephant is half black swan, and half elephant in the room that will inevitably become a black swan. But now that half-swan, half swan-within-an-elephant is being contrasted with a black swan: in the near future, things that are really black elephants will be misidentified as black swans.

* Understanding survivorship bias.

* Podcast idea of the week: Like Random Trek, but for Rod Serling.

Which Famous Actor Hustled Chess Games in New York City?

* Life after Seinfeld.

* Fidel without Illusions.

* What does elephant taste like?

Here’s Why You Should Be Watching Netflix’s Brazilian Sci-Fi Series 3%. And on the SF kick: Aaron Bady explains Westworld.

* there is no reason to assume Uber’s obliteration of local competition across the planet will create a sustainable business in the long term. Costs are costs, even if you’re a monopoly. As long as people have cheaper alternatives (public transport, legs), they will defect if the break-even price is higher than their inconvenience tolerance threshold.

Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change. But really, show’s over, folks.

* The trans brain and gender dysphoria.

This is brilliant and I’m shocked it took the good guys this long to figure it out.

* Some grim news.

* America is already great.

* Kazuo Ishiguro on the coming race of super clones. Never Let Me Go 2: The Revenge.

* Every villain is the hero of their own story.

* And this is pretty much my actual teaching philosophy.

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Written by gerrycanavan

December 5, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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New Fall Syllabus #1: Alternate History!

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I’m teaching three classes this semester, ENGLISH 4615/5615 (“Infinite Jest”), ENGLISH 2010 (“Alternate History”), and HOPR 1953 (“Video Game Culture”) (one-credit, pass/fail, now with Pokémon Go!). I’m very excited about all three. The Infinite Jest course is one I’ve wanted to do for a very long time — I came up with the whole idea of adding the new 4615/5615 course number to the Marquette English just so I could do this course — and the alternate-history course has been puttering around in my brain as a pedagogical opportunity for just about as long.

I got a lot of help from folks on Twitter and Facebook with the alternate history novel course, both at the level of generating texts but also at the level of conceptualizing the course a little different so it could be more inclusive, and I’m really grateful for that. I was finally sold by Alexis Lothian on the idea that I was being silly by being resistant to stories like The Lathe of Heaven and “The Book of Martha,” for instance, and that the practical effect of that resistance was to make the class much whiter and much maler than it really needed to be. Now, the course is still pretty white and very male, but the genre itself is, and somehow or another that’s something I want to start to talk about as the semester progresses. The excellent suggestion of Karen Joy Fowler’s story “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” will really help me make that pivot, I think, as will In the United States of Africa (a great novel I couldn’t believe I forgot to include until it was pointed out to me I’d forgotten to include it, I think by Aaron Bady).

A few other things I was very sad to lose:

  • I was originally going to do “an alternate history of an alternate history” thing to end the semester, Superman: Red Son, but it just didn’t make sense the way the course took shape. I held on to the idea way too long, and only cut the book two days ago. Sorry, bookstore!
  • The whole original point of all this was to use the course as an excuse to teach The Years of Rice and Salt, a book I love which seems just too long too teach in any other context. And it still seems too long to teach (at least at the sophomore level). I had to give it up, and wasn’t able to include even any excerpts because I crammed in too much other stuff. Someday!
  • Another thing that fell out of the course was a group presentation structure in which individual groups researched the actual history of the hinge point of each divergence and reported on it. I realized that with the newer, more expansive idea of the course this wasn’t going to work very well for at least half the books, and probably would have been reductive and overdetermined our conversations in practice, so it had to be abandoned as well.
  • I really, really wanted to include a Ted Chiang what-if-religion-were-empirically-verifiable story like “Hell Is The Absence of God,” but, again, it seemed just a bit far too off the mark this time.
  • I am, indeed, doing literally just one page from The Plot Against America, fulfilling my perverse desire to do so.
  • There were many other great suggestions for books that I wasn’t able to use. A few that I really struggled over:
    • Life After Life: a Replay-style reincarnation novel about World War I;
    • Replay itself, which is just too time-travel-ish for this (though I’ve always really liked it);
    • I likewise ruled out some other really good alternate-timeline stories because they were really time travel stories, from my puritanical perspective;
    • Something longer from Butler, perhaps Wild Seed (again, just too far afield generically for what I’m hoping to do);
    • Something truly (“merely”) generic, like Turtledove or Bring the Jubilee;
    • Lion’s Blood, Atomik Aztex, The Indians Won, The Bird Is Gone, The Heirs of Columbus, etc. I was so hung up on the idea of doing The Years of Rice and Salt that it crowded out this space for me (and then I added In the United States of Africa instead, to take on this question from a different direction). Next time.
    • Swastika Night, 1984, Handmaid’s Tale, Battle Royale: all good suggestions but didn’t hit the sense of “pastness” required by my conception of alternate history as a genre, as they were all future histories in their original moment of production;
    • District 9: only (re-)occurred to me at the last second because I was talking about it to somebody in another context, and didn’t have time to do it because the syllabus was (again) too crammed with too much other stuff. Someone had suggested Born in Flames to me as well, which also would have been great.
    • I also really wanted to play some board games like Twilight Struggle, Risk, Axis and Allies, and Chrononauts, but it seemed like it would be unwieldy and pointless with 35 students in the room. I think Civilization could scratch the same itch, though…

All right, with all those caveats, apologies, and thanks, here’s the week by week schedule (and full syllabus with all course procedures)! Three papers, the first two “traditionally scholarly,” the third one with a creative option, as well as a few creative micro-assignments here and there. If there’s anything more I should explain or you have any questions about the decisions I made, feel free to ask in the comments!

M Aug. 29 FIRST DAY OF CLASS

in-class writing exercise: “What If…”

W Aug. 31 class discussion: “What If…”
UNIT ONE: ALTERNATE WORLD WAR IIs
F Sep. 2 Kim Stanley Robinson, “The Lucky Strike”
M Sep. 5 LABOR DAY—NO CLASS
W Sep. 7 Kim Stanley Robinson, “A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions”
F Sep. 9 FIRST PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED

Star Trek: “The City on the Edge of Forever” (discussion only; watch it on your own!)

criticism: H. Bruce Franklin, “Star Trek in the Vietnam Era” [D2L]

M Sep. 12 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 1-3
W Sep. 14 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 4-6
F Sep. 16 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 7-9
M Sep. 19 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, chapters 10-13
W Sep. 21 Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (whole book)
F Sep. 23 The Man in the High Castle (2015 Amazon pilot) (discussion only; watch it on your own!)
M Sep. 26 Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion only; optional screening date and time TBA)
W Sep. 28 Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (discussion continues)

·      review: Ben Waters, “Debating Inglourious Basterds” [Web]

·      review: Michael Atkinson, “The Anti-Blockbuster” [Web]

·      review: Lee Siegel, “Tarantino’s Hollow Violence” [Web]

·      review: Jeffrey Goldberg, “Hollywood’s Jewish Avenger” [Web]

F Sep. 30 Lauren Davis, “Quentin Tarantino’s Spin Through Alternate History” [io9.com]

 

creative writing: Draft a short flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the 2016 of the world of Inglourious Basterds

 

Philip Roth, The Plot Against America (excerpt) [D2L]

UNIT TWO: OTHER HISTORIES
M Oct. 3 FIRST PAPER WORKSHOP

Bring in at least your introductory paragraphs, main claim, and an outline of your paper.

W Oct. 5 Sid Meier’s Civilization

videos: Civilization V timelapse gameplay videos [YouTube]

post: Trevor Owens, “Sid Meier’s Colonization: Is It Offensive Enough?” [Web]

thread: Lycerius, “I’ve Been Playing the Same Game of Civilization for Almost Ten Years. This Is the Result” [Reddit]

F Oct. 7 Sid Meier’s Civilization

criticism: Kacper Pobłocki, “Becoming-State: The Bio-Cultural Imperialism of Sid Meier’s Civilization”

 
M Oct. 10 FIRST PAPER DUE

SECOND PAPER GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED

Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” [D2L]

W Oct. 12 Karen Joy Fowler, “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” [D2L]
F Oct. 14 criticism: L. Timmel Duchamp, “Playing with the Big Boys: (Alternate) History in Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘Game Night at the Fox and Goose’” [Web]
M Oct. 17 Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
W Oct. 19 Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

thinkpiece: Jennifer Schuessler, “Hamilton and History: Are They in Sync?” [Web]

interview: Rebecca Onion and Lyra D. Monteiro, “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems” [Web]

F Oct. 21 FALL BREAK—NO CLASS
M Oct. 24 Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 1-66
W Oct. 26 Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain, pgs. 67-119
F Oct. 28 Terry Bisson, Fire on the Mountain (whole book)
M Oct. 31 Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (part one)
W Nov. 2 Abdourahman A. Waberi, In the United States of Africa (whole book)

criticism: Justin Izzo, “Historical Reversibility as Ethnographic Afrofuturism: Abdourahman Waberi’s Alternative Africa”

F Nov. 4 CONFERENCES—CLASS CANCELLED
UNIT THREE: DREAMING OF DIFFERENCE
M Nov. 7 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 1-4)
W Nov. 9 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 5-6)
F Nov. 11 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 7-9)
M Nov. 14 SECOND PAPER DUE

FINAL PROJECT GUIDELINES DISTRIBUTED

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 10-13)

W Nov. 16 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 14-16)
F Nov. 18 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (chapters 17-19)
M Nov. 21 Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (whole book)

Martin Puchner, “When We Were Clones” [D2L]

W Nov. 23 THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS
F Nov. 25 THANKSGIVING BREAK—NO CLASS
M Nov. 28 Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 1-4)
W Nov. 30 Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (chapters 5-8)
F Dec. 2 Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (whole book)
M Dec. 5 Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha”

creative writing: Imagine God comes to you with the same offer he/she/it brings to Martha. What one change would you make to the world, and why?

W Dec. 7 Octavia E. Butler, “The Book of Martha” (discussion continues)

creative writing: Draft a flash fiction [500-1000 words] or create an artifact, document, or image set in the world that exists sometime after the end of “The Book of Martha.”

 

Octavia E. Butler, “Afterword to ‘The Book of Martha’”

Gerry Canavan, Octavia E. Butler (excerpt) [D2L]

F Dec. 9 FINAL PROJECT WORKSHOP

LAST DAY OF CLASS

F Dec. 16 FINAL ASSIGNMENT DUE BY 12:30 PM
     

 

 

New Course Descriptions for Fall 2016: “Alternate History” and “INFINITE JEST”

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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

Late Night Monday

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* While my cousin was visiting last weekend we saw both Toy Story 3 and Exit Through the Gift Shop, both of which I endorse for entirely different reasons. What I find most interesting about Exit is the possibility that large swaths of the documentary, perhaps even the whole thing, are a high-concept Banksy prank; what I like best about Toy Story 3 is how bravely it faces down the themes of mortality and obsolescence that have always been the subtext of the series. That the toys (spoiler alert) receive their inevitable reprieve is ultimately a small consolation; in the end, we must admit Lotso had it right.

* This short but intriguing post from Crooked Timber compares the Toy Story franchise to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, concluding (as we must) that Stinky Pete is the existential hero of the series, the only character who is genuinely free.

* World Cup supervillain Koman Coulibaly apparently fired.

* Steve Benen and Ezra Klein look at how a utilities-only compromise on cap and trade might work. Here too is Brad Plumer on what EPA regulation can and cannot accomplish.

* If I’m reading this correctly, Matt Yglesias wants to turn Detroit into District 9. More on Detroit and this week’s U.S. Social Forum here and here.

* Speaking of District 9: Will Neill Blomkamp direct The Hobbit?

* There’s something about this piece on spiked anti-rape protection in South Africa that gets people talking. I can’t count how many times it’s shown up in my Facebook feed.

* One day late for Father’s Day: “Daddy, could we have our planet back now?”

* Pandagon highlights a study linking sexual aggression and heavy porn use.

* Why the Right is fantasizing about a 2012 primary challenge.

It’s easy to see why conservatives would be salivating at the thought of a Hillary primary challenge. Presidents who face serious primary challenges—Ford, Carter, Bush I—almost always lose. The last president who lost re-election without a serious primary challenge, by contrast, was Herbert Hoover. But in truth, the chances that Obama will face a primary challenge are vanishingly slim, and the chances that he will lose re-election only slightly higher. No wonder conservatives are fantasizing about Hillary Clinton taking down Barack Obama. If she doesn’t, it’s unlikely they will.

* And so it’s come to this.