Category Archives: Assignment

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.)

Guillory Needs To Decide

I found it difficult to asses Guillory’s personal side as he argues both for and against, claiming discrepancies and overlaps, generalizations and specifics, as well as pros and cons of each side. But I have come to consensus that he doesn’t believe either side is correct as there are fundamental problems with both that must addressed before he can truly pick a winner.

As an example, Guillory states problems in regards to syllabi as they are not about inclusion or exclusion, but about our projection of Western culture . “What is excluded from the syllabus is not excluded in the same way that an individual is excluded or marginalized as the member of a social minority” (33). That being said, he also believes syllabi to be the product of anxiety and a fragmented culture which is why they try so hard to unify different works (34). Which brings a bit of confusion on my part as a syllabus that aims to unify works will then be about inclusion or exclusion of certain works -but perhaps then I am misreading.



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.

Death of a Writer

“Using all the contrivances that he sets up between himself and what he writes, the writing subject cancels out the signs of his particular individuality. As a result, the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in the game of writing” (Richter 905).

While this may be the case for many texts, the replacing/ forgetting of the writer for the speaker, this is not always true. For example, in Heart of Darkness we as a class constantly talked about Joseph Conrad’s role within the text. Although he distanced himself through Marlow’s ability to narrate, the explicit language and ideology behind Marlow’s telling are all based on Conrad’s ability to assess reality. I disagree with the quote from Foucault because rather than viewing Conrad as a dead entity, he is now celebrated. His text is constantly picked up and picked apart. So long as the text lives, he and his particular mark on society will live on.

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.

Imperalism as a Business

“That this group of people is drawn largely from the business world is Conrad’s way of emphasizing the fact that during the 1890s the business of empire, once an adventurous and often individualistic enterprise, had become the empire of business” (Said 23).

He states this fact not as a starting point with examples to prove or uphold his statement, but rather culminates with it and uses support from both Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as well as societal “pressures” to promote imperialism. For example, the quote above is certainly explained by the the paragraph proceeding it, but the real value of it lies within the paragraph that precedes it. The “white-suited clerk” and the “semi-crazed Russian”, etc all offer a lot for Marlow to think about during his journey as interruptions and digressions of the original narrative. These interruptions no longer allow for the solitary plundering of Africa, but bring about this bigger theme of “Europeans performing imperial mastery”. It is interesting and noteworthy how Said begins with an example of the book, the breaks in narrative. to the generalization of who these interruptions are made by, to become an overarching societal statement, to then finally claim that the both the book and society point to an empire of business.


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.