Posts Tagged ‘Philip K. Dick’
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
* 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.
* A brief history of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Star Wars Minus Star Wars. Is Luke Skywalker of ‘Star Wars’ inspired by Wisconsin war hero? Star Wars and Jihad. May the toys be with you. Me talking Star Wars at Salon. The only review I read, which seems 100% right to me (very light spoilers).
My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If ever the President wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is—what an innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.
When I suggested this to friends in the Pentagon they said, “My God, that’s terrible. Having to kill someone would distort the President’s judgment. He might never push the button.“
* This seems true, at least as FYE as it is usually conceived goes, but all the same it’s not necessarily a great argument for FYE practitioners to make.
* Milwaukee’s Push to Move the Homeless From the Streets Into Permanent Housing. U.S. Department of Justice agrees to review Milwaukee police. Milwaukee to pay $5 million to settle suits over illegal strip searches.
* My life story: Tsundoku.
* Yet another trailer: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
* Where the jobs are(n’t), 2015. The other me who went to grad school in philosophy instead is pretty unhappy right now.
* Another followup, from years back: Cop Who Sought Photos of Teen’s Erection in Sexting Case Commits Suicide Moments Before Arrest.
* I understand why they made the decision they made, but I don’t think this paradigm is really sustainable: All LA Schools Closed After Hoax Threat.
* An Unbelievable Story of Rape. Difficult but very powerful read.
* A record 409 scripted TV series were produced this year, according to FX. Almost too many, don’t you think?
* And your daily dose of total institutional breakdown: Embattled state’s attorney refused to prosecute cop who admitted to perjury. Prosecutors have hijacked America’s criminal justice system while no one was looking. LAPD found no bias in all 1356 complaints filed against officers. And maybe the worst just in sheer audacity: Denmark passes law to seize jewelry from refugees to cover expenses.
* A little bit on the nose, don’t you think? Scott Walker Strikes ‘Truth,’ ‘Human Condition’ from Wisconsin Idea. The Walker administration has now backed off the plan. The Power of the Wisconsin Idea.
* Ursula Heise on what happens when dystopia becomes routine.
* From Ph.D. to the professorship, the market moves downward. Of the graduates who get tenure-track jobs, most end up at universities ranked lower than the ones they attended. Virtually no one moves up. Even moving from a fourth-tier Ph.D. program to a tenure-track professorship at a third-tier one is nearly unheard of.
* To portray Samus’ sudden refusal to carry out her genocide mission, the game has the player nurture and nourish life instead of ending it. The fundamental nature of Metroid’s game-design ethos is subtly changed to reflect the altered tone. Paths are no longer opened with destructive weapons; instead, progress can only be made when the player provides life-giving nourishment to a newborn whose entire family they’ve just killed. The significance is that the player cannot stand idly by while the metroid child eats; they must lead the child to the food and take part in feeding them. Understanding Metroid II.
The FRA gave the site of Tuesday’s crash a probability of 3.1 percent — or, all things being equal, about one crash every 32 years. (Ironically, the last crash at the intersection was just over 30 years ago.)
But in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, there’s a New Jersey Transit crossingwith a predicted-collision probability of 49.6 percent — a coin flip, more or less. In total, 31 crossings in the New York area have probabilities above 10 percent, plus another 31 in Chicago.
* Presenting the original pitch for Game of Thrones, with unspeakably gross Arya-Jon incest plot.
* The original pitch for The Muppet Show. More links after the clip!
* “Let’s talk about sex in English class.” Okay but let me get tenure first.
* As Parents Get More Choice, S.F. Schools Resegregate. But only artisanal segregation is good enough for my kids. Meanwhile, in Mississippi: A School District That Was Never Desegregated.
* The Truth About What Went Wrong With The Third Season Of Star Trek. Roddenberry himself takes most of the blame in this telling.
* Yung found that, during the government audits, the number of sexual assaults reported by those schools increased by about 44 percent. But after the audits were over, the number of reports dropped back down to their previous levels. The study also found that the vast majority of participating schools frequently reported zero cases of annual off-campus sexual assaults, even though the Clery Act requires officials to make a “good faith” effort to work with local police to get that data.
* You had me at “sci-fi alterations of 19th century portraits.”