Sunday, June 24, 2007

Final Pep Talk

All the questions are up at this point. I'm hoping everybody is fairly happy with the state of at least one of their essays by now, and is preparing to take up their second one. Read the questions carefully. Even if you worry that you have not yet entirely mastered these essays, you will notice that the questions permit you to focus on very specific dimensions of the pieces and apply them in concrete ways that you should be able to get a handle on. And so, for example, you need not be an expert on the philosopher Levinas to grasp why and how Butler reads him in her essay to help explain what she means when she wants to talk about the connection of ethics to the scene in which we are addressed by another's speech. Once you grasp that more concrete idea you are probably in a pretty good position to think about how Butler's reading of the Face (in her discussion of the burka, for example) might speak to the impact of Mike Davis's rhetoric -- did it enrage you? incite you to action? make you feel hopeless? paralyze you? give you hope? Similarly, we have already talked about how Arendt's ideas about the difference between violence and power play out in her response to the student demonstrations against military-research and ethnocentrism. Now think how the situation of decolonization that preoccupies Fanon seems to you analogous or disanalogous to the student revolts. Even if there are stretches of these texts that still seem opaque to you -- you should be able to focus in on concrete questions and apply them to the case you mean to make. Over the next three classes next week we will discuss these very questions -- and I hope these discussions will provide companionable material for you as you put your final exam essays into shape. See you all soon.

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