Saturday, November 29, 2008

Third Prompt, Section One of the Final

3. The very first words of the novel Kindred describe the loss of
Dana's arm. Octavia Butler subsequently wrote of Dana's loss, "I couldn't
let her come back whole."

What do you take to be the significance of Dana's loss? What is the
significance of the necessity of this loss to what you take to be
Butler's project in Kindred? How does the mysteriousness that
surrounds the depiction of this loss -- its specific cause, the mechanism
through which it occurs, its various implications, and so on -- contribute
(if it does) to the expression of this significance?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Two Early Prompts for the Take-Home Final

1. Make and defend any strong claim you like about director David Cronenberg's film "A History of Violence," but you must substantiate that claim primarily through a close reading either of the opening sequence of the film or the closing sequence of the film (around the dinner table). Your essay should include a plausible case as to why the opening or closing scene is especially key or exemplary for the film as a whole for whatever it is you are illuminating through your reading of it.

2. In Chapter 5 of Part One of Art Spiegelman's Maus, the living narrator-protagonist of a comic-within-the-comic accuses his Mother -- who has committed suicide -- of murdering him, while with his last word the (same?)
narrator-protagonist concludes Part One by accusing his father of being a murderer as well, this time for destroying his dead Mother's diary.

Here are some questions to think about. Any of these questions might provide the basis for a fine thesis.

In what sense might the completion of the book that is Maus come to substitute for the diary that was destroyed? In what ways do these books substitute for the lives they memorialize? In light of your answers to these questions, what is the significance of the tombstone which constitutes Maus's last image? Just what is it that is captured in the testimony that is Maus? What is captured (differently?) in the photographs that are reproduced throughout the narrative? What is lost? What is recaptured that was lost? Who survives?

Focus on just one of these dimensions of Maus, survival,
memorialization, testimony, or representation, and make a strong claim
that you substantiate through a close reading of at least one of the
moments in the text alluded to above and including at least one moment
that is not included above.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Oh, yeah, sorry about that. A couple of you have found links to the piece for next Thursday. The chapters in Arendt's books On Violence and Crises of the Republic also entitled "Reflections on Violence" were expanded and adapted from the piece published first in the Review. It's the shorter earlier piece that I've assigned, links to which have been posted by your diligent colleagues. See you Thursday.