Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’
* “Whoa,” said the gangster/minotaur, awed at how close he’d just come to losing his forearm. He was beginning to understand that this wasn’t the relatively straightforward world of street-level dope dealing anymore; this was Dungeons and Dragons.
* I’m glad somebody finally paged KSR: “Why Elon Musk’s Mars Vision Needs ‘Some Real Imagination.'”
* “People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” This is how computer scientist Pedro Domingos sums up the issue in his 2015 book The Master Algorithm. Even the many researchers who reject the prospect of a ‘technological singularity’ — saying the field is too young — support the introduction of relatively untested AI systems into social institutions.
* One teaching artist sees it differently. “There will always be bad artists with a lot of money who want to go to art school,” she said. On the Future of the MFA.
* There’s More to Life Than Being Happy: On Viktor Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning. Relatedly: The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That.
* Degree programs in French, geology, German, philosophy and women’s studies are suspended, effectively immediately. Eight additional majors within existing departments, six teaching programs and four graduate programs have been shut down. The university is planning a teach-out program for currently enrolled students. Tenured faculty members in affected programs will be reassigned to different departments. The future of the campus’s nursing, dental education and medical imaging programs is still under discussion. Degree programs in environmental geology and environmental policy were cut previously, in July.
* Advice for how to use Twitter as an academic. Of course, as everyone knows, the only winning move is not to play.
* From David M. Perry: “My non-verbal son communicates through ‘Hamilton.'”
* Dylan, Christ, and Slow Train Coming. Teaching the controversy: Kurt Vonnegut in 1991: “Bob Dylan Is the Worst Poet Alive.” Imperialism-in-Artistry: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Win Is Proof Adichie Is Right about Beyonce. Local Boy Makes Good. But not too good: The Nobel Prize Committee Have Given Up on Trying to Get in Touch with Bob Dylan.
* The notion that American literature might have an imperial bent—that it might be anything other than a string of lightly co-influential works of “imaginative power,” and might itself reflect our national desire to dominate—is lost on its critics, both right and left.
* Another gerrymandering primer. I’m inclined to make a joke about Obama’s proceduralism even ruining his post-presidency but this really is a major issue worth throwing his weight against.
* Atlas Obscura: The Land of Make Believe.
* And then there’s this one: Earlier this October, at a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice, London paid its rent to the Queen. The ceremony proceeded much as it had for the past eight centuries. The city handed over a knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes, and 61 nails to Barbara Janet Fontaine, the Queen’s Remembrancer, the oldest judicial position in England. The job was created in the 12th century to keep track of all that was owed to the crown.
* Thank god the Mac version isn’t ready yet: Civ VI is out.
* A dark, grittier Captain Planet: Leonardo DiCaprio wants to make a Captain Planet movie.
* Hungerford makes Infinite Jest represent how commercial publishers and their enablers in the mainstream media engineer a novel into a canonizable success. The market is corrupt, she says. But is it any more corrupt or distasteful than the publication and marketing of her university press book? “Post 45” is a scholarly association; Hungerford is one of nine Board members. Two other Board members are the series editors for the “Post 45” imprint. The “Advance Praise” for Making Literature Now includes effusive comments by two people whom Hungerford praises in the book, a blurb by a former colleague at Yale, and other comments so hyperbolic that they appear to have been written under the influence of laughing gas. Hungerford put out a misleading trailer for the book in the Chronicle, excising the misogyny charge that’s essential in her closing chapter, perhaps because she feared anyone who had read Infinite Jest would see through that charge and not order Making Literature Now. Her title is grandiose because her data is extremely limited. Rather than the survey that the title implies, Making Literature Now is literary tourism combined with two takedowns.
Catching Up on My Open Tabs After an Incredibly Slow News Week in Which Nothing World-Historically Bonkers Happened
* CFP: The Films of Wes Anderson.
After much consideration my position on this event is that I’m formally opposed, but nonetheless personally delighted.
This schedule creates a natural mid-semester break. And if adopted soon, that break would occur next week. Let’s get to work. I don’t think it’s too late.
* Arrested Development Season Five (not really). Women Are Defeating Donald Trump. All of Donald Trump’s Accusers: A Timeline of Every Alleged Grope and Assault. Gerrymandering helped Republicans take control of Congress, but now it’s tearing them apart over Trump. A Trump collapse could give Democrats back the House. Here’s the math. Inside the Bunker. Inside the Meltdown. How One 19-Year-Old Illinois Man Is Distorting National Polling Averages. Trump, the GOP, and the Fall. Let’s never forget what a terrifying thing we almost did. Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat. I guess I need a new surgeon. If professors made $500k/year, would they be Republicans? U.S. government officially accuses Russia of hacking campaign to interfere with elections. The Evan McMullin Century. A GOP strategist explains why the Republican Party is about to break in two. Even the Humane Society. Teach the controversy. Thank you for your idea about a political thriller but unfortunately we find the plot preposterous. Michelle Obama for President. And because we’re all still asking: What Happens If Trump Drops Out?
And on the subject of deranged tech madmen: Simpsons did it.
* What’s the Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Says. Challenge accepted.
* The kids are all right: Only 1 in 5 Millennials Have Ever Tried a Big Mac.
* App of the week: Really Bad Chess.
* And I told you, Mom: Science Says the First Born Child Is the Most Intelligent.
* And marrying the last two links: One in Six Eligible Voters Has a Disability.
* Let history be our judge: Pepe the Frog, an explainer.
* Researchers at the Karadag Nature Reserve, in Feodosia, Russia, recorded two Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, called Yasha and Yana, talking to each other in a pool. They found that each dolphin would listen to a sentence of pulses without interruption, before replying.
* CFP: this xkcd.
* Going viral this week: extinction illusions.
* Nice work if you can get it: Wells Fargo won’t claw back $125m retirement bonus from exec who oversaw 2m frauds.
* Stories that should be more exciting than they are: We Were Wrong About Where the Moon Came From!
* I read Jason Shiga’s Demon as a crowdfunder — it’s great. Check out the first volume when it comes to print next month.
* Special providence: Catfish Falls From The Sky, Hits Woman In The Face.
* The organizing economic metaphor of all of Against Everything is artificial scarcity. The concept usually refers to the way that monopolistic sellers exploit their excessive market power to restrict supply so they can raise prices. Greif’s view is more capacious and idiosyncratic: He describes a culture where the affluent, at sea in a world of abundance, engage in the elaborate restriction of their own demand (to kitsch diners, ethnic food, inappropriately youthful sexual partners). This turns what could be unfussy gratification into resource-intensive performance. On one level, this is about making a technically meaningless life more diverting, but it also gives our atomized selves the comfort of belonging. It serves to differentiate “people like me” from those other, worse people—those without access to the most current information, say, or simply the economic means to act on it. What gives n+1’s economistic turn its authority and novelty is the way Greif and his colleagues show that the market is not, as someone like Gary Becker had it, a bazaar untainted by sinister, irrational notions (discrimination, exploitation, class prejudice), but a site where those things are given free play under cover of neutral utility-maximizing exchange. They have taught us to speak the softer insights of theory (with its sensitivity to symbolic difference and its hermeneutics of suspicion) in the hardheaded but incantatory vernacular of the powerful.
* The New Yorker remembers the Wilmington coup of 1898.
* And I’m catching up late, but man oh man, Bojack Horseman is a good show.
And here’s the Infinite Jest syllabus. This one turned out to be a surprisingly difficult puzzle to put together, just because I felt strongly that the book absolutely had to be finished by the class period before the class period before Thanksgiving (and later determined that we really needed a whole week to talk about the book just as a whole) — while I also felt (after the experience of the Tolkien class was so great) that it would be really good to have a slow start where we talked a bit about Wallace as a thinker and read some of his other work. This seemed especially urgent to me because of the fact of the suicide, which really does seem to risk retrospectively poisoning some aspects of the book and Wallace’s larger career (I’ve included the MLA panel we’re doing explicitly in the course as a last-day exercise, though I realized yesterday while prepping the course that I seem to have completely cryptomnesically ripped off Tom Bissell in my panel abstract — very embarrassing).
I decided early on that “beginning with the end” was the way to do this course, discussing the suicide openly and concretely at length at the very start of the class. My workshopmates in my Jesuit pedagogy seminar last semester very helpfully suggested some strategies for making the course a comfortable place to talk about some very uncomfortable things, and strongly suggested that I include an explicit content note in the syllabus (which as you can see, I did, a fairly lengthy one; I don’t think I’ve ever done one before, except in briefly offering the possibility of an alternate assignment for Lolita in a sophomore-level survey).
The result of all this is a syllabus that I’m pretty happy with and that I hope won’t be too demanding. I’ve thought a lot about not just trying to generate buy-in and a spirit of shared endeavor, but also how to make sure I don’t lose a ton of people along the way. In the end, with a MW class meeting trying to read a 1,079-page novel in nine weeks while leaving space at the beginning and end for other conversations about Infinite Jest, I decided I just couldn’t do much better than around 50-70 pages per class period for the long haul, especially in the back half. I hope the assignments and the structure of the course pull them through, and give them space to get something valuable out of it, even if (as seems inevitable) some number of them completely hate both the book and me by the end…
As before, full syllabus with course procedures and all assignments at the link, but here’s the day-by-day schedule:
|M||Aug 29||FIRST DAY OF CLASS
audiobook: “This Is Water” (Commencement Address to the Kenyon College Class of 2005) (in class)
|W||Aug 31||“Alas, Poor Yorick” monologue from Hamlet, Act V, sc. i [D2L]
George Saunders, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]
Jonathan Franzen, “Informal Remarks from the David Foster Wallace Memorial Service in New York on October 23, 2008” [D2L]
roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Sad Things, Together
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #1
|M||Sep 5||LABOR DAY—NO CLASS|
|W||Sep 7||David Foster Wallace, “The Planet Trillaphon as It Stands in Relation to the Bad Thing” (1984) and Afterword by Kevin J. H. Dettmar (2016)|
|M||Sep 12||David Foster Wallace, “Octet” (1997/1999)
Guest Lecture: Tom Moore
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #2
|W||Sep 14||David Foster Wallace, “Octet” discussion continues
Infinite Jest forewords by Dave Eggers (2006) and Tom Bissell (2016) [D2L]
roundtable discussion: How to Talk About Literature, Art, Artists, Genius, Greatness, Pretension, Ambition, “Trying Too Hard,” Success, Failure, Annoyance, Fondness, Commitment, Honesty, Community, Solitude, Work, Intellectual Experiences That Might (or Might Not) Change Your Life, &c.
(after class) Mandatory D2L Post #3
|M||Sep 19||Infinite Jest through p. 17
brief primer: How to Read Infinite Jest [in class]
|W||Sep 21||Infinite Jest through p. 63||46|
|M||Sep 26||Infinite Jest through p. 127||64|
|W||Sep 28||Infinite Jest through p. 171||44|
|M||Oct 3||Infinite Jest through p. 226||55|
|W||Oct 5||Infinite Jest through p. 283||57|
|M||Oct 10||Infinite Jest through p. 342||59|
|W||Oct 12||Infinite Jest through p. 398||56|
|M||Oct 17||Infinite Jest through p. 450||52|
|W||Oct 19||Infinite Jest through p. 503||53|
|M||Oct 24||Infinite Jest through p. 589||86|
|W||Oct 26||Infinite Jest through p. 648||59|
|M||Oct 31||Infinite Jest through p. 711||63|
|W||Nov 2||Infinite Jest through p. 775||64|
|M||Nov 7||Infinite Jest through p. 845||70|
|W||Nov 9||Infinite Jest through p. 911||66|
|M||Nov 14||Infinite Jest through p. 981
|W||Nov 16||Samuel Cohen, “To Wish to Try to Sing to the Next Generation: Infinite Jest’s History”
N. Katherine Hayles, “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and Infinite Jest”
OPTION #3 PROSPECTUS DUE BY TODAY
|M||Nov 21||Research Workshop with Heather James (Raynor)
Bring in the general topic you think you might want to write about, as well as some useful research questions.
* Infinite Jest pages per day (approximate) (not counting footnotes)
|M||Nov 28||OPTION #1 and #2 PROSPECTUS DUE TO ME ON D2L
Michael Pietsch, editor’s note, The Pale King (2011) [D2L]
David Foster Wallace, “Good Old Neon” (2001) [D2L]
|W||Nov 30||Lee Konstantinou, “No Bull: David Foster Wallace and Postironic Belief” [D2L]
Adam Kelly, “David Foster Wallace and the New Sincerity in American Fiction” [D2L]
|M||Dec 5||Ed Finn, “Becoming Yourself: The Afterlife of Reception” [D2L]
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Infinite Summer: Reading, Empathy, and the Social Network” [D2L]
MetaFilter.com, “RIP, DFW” [Web]
The Howling Fantods, Wallace-L, etc.
|W||Dec 7||FINAL THOUGHTS: MLA 2017 panel: “Infinite Jest at 20” [D2L]
Bring in four copies of the prospectus for your final project.
LAST DAY OF CLASS
|W||Dec 14||FINAL PROJECT DUE BY 12:30 PM|