All posts by AG

About AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Booker: reading and group B prompt

For everyone

Read Graham Huggan’s “Prizing ‘Otherness‘” and the following four short articles from the English newspaper the Guardian:

Prompt for group B

Think about illusio. What is at stake when people are arguing about the meaning, significance, or criteria for the Booker prize? Use a specific example from one of the Guardian pieces. Think carefully about context.

Prompt (group A)

Read Lamont and Lareau’s review essay on “Cultural Capital.” They devise a way to translate what they think are the French-specific features of Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital into a definition and research agenda that make sense in the U.S. context. Choose one or two of the ways they seek to modify his concept for the U.S. present and then consider how it might apply to specifically literary production, reception, or circulation. What part does literature play in cultural capital in the U.S.—at least as Lamont and Lareau define it? Write a paragraph.

(Note: the representation of the U.S. reflects L&L’s view in their particular time (1986–88) and place. Do you recognize the country they describe? —No need to blog about this, just reflect.)

Prompt (group B)

Read the chapter from Guillory’s Cultural Capital. Guillory worked on this book in the 1980s and published it in the early 1990s, when one phase of the “culture wars” was at its height. This was (overtly) a struggle about the political significance of the contents of university curricula in the U.S., ignited by changes in “gen ed” courses at many schools over the previous decade or two, and a series of best-sellers by conservative cultural critics denouncing some of those changes. Since 1993 we have been through many more phases of this struggle but it has not really stopped, though its forms have continually been changing.

Here is the question for your blogging: which side is Guillory on? It is a trick question, but fortunately the blog is credit/no-credit, so do your best: find a moment in which Guillory seems to assess the “sides” in the culture war, and then write a few notes on how he positions himself theoretically in relation to those sides. The first question I will ask in class on Monday will be, “Which side is he on?”

Prompt (group A)

Spend time reading the series of course catalogue excerpts prepared for us by the University Archivists, Tom Frusciano and Erika Gorder. Most of them are found in one big PDF. However, the pages from the 1923 New Jersey College for Women catalogue in that file are the history courses rather than English. History, schmistory! The correct pages, containing listings for English courses from the 1923–24 New Jersey College for Women catalogue, are in another PDF file.

As you read, make a couple of notes about particular entries that catch your eye, or about trends you detect. You could also note questions or confusions you have: on Monday we’ll have the chance to talk about these materials with Drs. Frusciano and Gorder, and to look at the originals that these scans come from. For the blog entry, simply include three or four notations. If you prefer to write an interpretive paragraph, you may.

We have two governing questions: (1) how does the curriculum project a changing conception of what literature’s constitution and function? (2) what forces shape the curriculum? In a way it’s easier to “see” (1) in the catalogues, but think about both of these issues as we go into our discussion next week. We meet in Alexander Library in the Special Collections seminar room at our regular time.

Blogging prompt: Barthes/Foucault (group B)

This entry is about the readings due Monday, November 3, but because the syllabus says it is for Wednesday, you may post it any time until Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Consider any theory at all from the semester so far in conjunction with either Barthes or Foucault’s radical reconstructions of the concept of the author. How does it change our arguments about form, or about writing and social forces, or about writing and cultural power, if the author is dead (Barthes) or a function (Foucault)? Or if you think it doesn’t change it, then suggest how the author was already implicitly dead/a function in the other theory. Zombie authors are still welcomed even though Halloween is over. Essays forbidden. One or two thoughtful paragraphs is enough. Try to be specific, citing a passage from Barthes or Foucault to support your interpretation of their claims.

Prompt (group B)

By Sunday evening:

Read the excerpt from Culture and Imperialism. We’ll be thinking about Said’s specific interpretive arguments about Conrad, but we’ll also think about how Said’s approach transforms our thinking about literature in society more generally. For the blog entry, choose a passage that suggests something striking about Said’s method of analysis: what does he do with his materials? How does he put together an argument? You don’t have to summarize all he says, just show one way he works.

Prompt: the power of texts (group A)

By 6 p.m. on Sunday:

Choose a passage from Foucault or Said that helps to reflect on the question: “What do texts do?” Comment briefly on how the passage suggests a capacity of texts to do things in the world. Neither Foucault nor Said is exclusively concerned with literary texts, so the theoretical challenge is to extend or adapt what they say.