As I’ve whined on Twitter, my digital humanities class this semester was canceled*, and has been replaced with a section of first-year writing. Since classes begin on the 24th, I need a book order immediately, and a syllabus soon after.
My normal strategy in first-year writing courses, since I normally teach in the first-year experience program, is to make the class be about college. We read a lot about higher ed, from a variety of perspectives. And that works pretty well with first-semester students. In the spring, though, the students have been around for a semester, and I’ve never had good luck with that approach under those circumstances. (And it’s not an FYE section anyway–it’s just a regular section of 110.) I needed a new theme, and thought that comic books would be an interesting way to go.
Here’s the draft booklist for the class:
We’ll also do some webcomics, but I don’t know which ones yet. (Definitely Vision Machine, though, since my 7-yr-old loves Greg Pak, and he secretly makes all my curricular decisions.) If you’ve got thoughts, let me know!
(I’ll acknowledge straightaway that the course is shaped to a certain extent by “stuff I know really well without having to do a dramatic amount of prep for, since ohbytheway I’m still union president, and teaching comp while doing that is going to be hard.” The course isn’t providing an introduction or a proper survey, but just enough to be interesting.)
*The course suffered from a perfect storm: it doesn’t count for *anything* in the major; it meets on MWF in the first semester of a new MW schedule (all classes with Friday sessions took a hit); and I wasn’t around in the fall to hype it, especially in light of the other two reasons.]]>
At any rate, Joshua Kryah was kind enough to answer a few questions about faith, language, and poetry:
Glean‘s debt to poets such as Paul Celan is evident, but I think I was even more struck by the presence of Hopkins and Hardy (Eliot almost goes without saying). I wonder if you could comment on what you value in the English tradition?
If, by “English tradition,” you mean English poets, I value their attention to language. Especially in the work of of Donne, Hopkins, and Hardy. I share their affinity for language. It’s the same English I use, but one imbued with a deeper sense of history and etymology.
Hopkins, for instance, forces language, under immense pressure, to yield a number of possible routes for a reader to follow—the “naked thew and sinew of the English language” as he calls it. Geoffrey Hill, like Hopkins, constrains the language in such a way as to make it labyrinthine and tangled. Both poets are, as Heraclitus would say, “estranged from that which [they] are most familiar”—God and language, language and God. So their poetry conflates the two, endeavoring through one in order to reach the other. The poems in Glean operate similarly.
As always, read the whole thing!]]>
This month we introduce two new columns: Culinaria Bookslut, which is pretty much what it sounds like; and PsychoSlut, which hopefully is not. . . . And in PsychoSlut, Jason B. Jones, also known as Bookslut’s poetry blogger and reviewer, will be rereading The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud one volume at a time. Note that “rereading” bit there.
It should be fun. This month’s column sketches the plan, and talks briefly about the transition from my psychoanalytically-intensive doctoral work to a community where the appraisal of Freud is a wee bit more skeptical. Since these will usually be linked to a recent book, there’s a glancing look at Drew Westen’s The Political Brain.
It goes without saying, right, that the column’s title is in keeping with Bookslut’s naming conventions, and isn’t some sort of weird confession.]]>
In characterizing Theory of Orange as comfort food, I’m not trying to be patronizing — rather, it strikes me that her basic method is to take a familiar conceit and dislocate it. The lead poem, for instance, “Recipe for Success,” borrows its rhetoric from those horrid cross-stitch patterns of bromides such as “Recipe for a Happy Home”: Take a pinch of X, a dash of Y, and so on. Simon’s poem shifts rapidly between different registers. There’s silliness: “Consider what a cape / might do for your aesthetic.” Familiar, yet secret, knowledge: “Pitch your voice two feathers louder / than the hush of meeting your girlfriend’s / older brother.” But then there’s the recognition of goads to ambition: “Dispose of any mementos / in your memento box to which / the associated memory does not evoke / instant boils.” Elsewhere, Simon draws on experiences that are instantly familiar to those of us who moved away from our parents’ homes to a big city apartment — for example, she recurs twice (in “Wolcott Avenue” and “Early Correspondence”) to the ability to control the heat for oneself.
Read the whole thing!]]>
I think some interviews are likely to go up soon, and there’s something interesting coming in a few weeks.]]>
The first such post, about Angus McLaren’s splendid new book, Impotence: A Cultural History (U of Chicago P, 2007), went up last night. McLaren shows how even the most basic questions of the male body–am I hard? can I get it up?–have been construed very differently in Western history.
From the interview:
To say that “impotence has a history” means that every age has had its own ideas about what caused and cured male sexual dysfunctions. Fiascos in the bedroom have been attributed at one time or another to witchcraft, masturbation, homosexual desires, shell-shock, sexual excesses, feminism, and the Oedipal complex. In recovering this history we not only learn about other cultures, more importantly we find that what it meant to be a man differed in each epoch. Countless studies have tracked the ways in which women’s sexuality was “constructed” or repressed or policed but next to nothing has as yet been said about how normative standards of male performance were established.
And, from the review:
Despite the presence of a blurb from Dr. Ruth on the back cover, McLaren is a refreshingly low-key guide to the vicissitudes of impotence. The book is almost unmissable for its extensive cataloging of tests (“fifteenth-century English courts sometimes employed ‘honest women’ to examine the man”) and treatments (ranging from the implantation of monkey and goat glands, to the construction of mechanical scaffolding, to various forms of pastes, salves, and unguents, applied topically, orally, or anally).
Read the whole piece!
(Update: Andrew Sullivan’s link to the interview; Cliopatria’s link; and the one from the U of Chicago Press.)]]>
This book delivers almost exactly what the title offers: A sympathetic, perhaps even sentimental, look at the slightly crazy people who organize their lives around rose competitions. If you imagine a non-satirical Best in Show, except with flowers, then you will have an almost perfect mental image of this book. The book is breezily charming, and, unless you are already an avid competitive rose enthusiast—and if you read PopMatters regularly I’m betting you’re not—it also might teach you something about roses.
It turns out, for instance, that when Gertude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” she was lying.
Read the whole thing!]]>
If you’ve not read his Hiero novels, and you are, or have been, a fan of sf+fantasy, then doing so would make a lovely tribute to his memory.]]>
Christopher A. Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic (Harvard UP, 1999)
If, at 19, I’d known the classics were so awesome . . . I’d probably be annoying my students with Aristophanes rather than with Dickens.]]>
One of the book’s strongest features is its implicit commentary on American masculinity, especially in its adolescent and 20-something variants. Cistulli’s poems are sports-besotted, not with the usual lyrical extolling of, say, the slow time of baseball, or the jazzy flow of basketball, but, rather, with the media- and stats-filtered consciousness of the fan and the player. “Postgame Comments by Celtics’ Captain Paul Pierce as an Approach to the Creative Process” takes as its text an infamous comment by the Boston superstar wherein he compared basketball to war at a time when U.S. troops were fighting overseas. Cistulli splices in “poetry” for “basketball,” with good effect: “people don’t understand / the psychology of the poetry / I was just trying to / get my poetry fired up.” He also writes a series of prose poems for Jiri Welsch, an obscure NBA player, and has other poems that draw their key images from baseball, soccer, video games, and other activities of the 20-something male (the Welsch poem has my current favorite Matthew Arnold allusion: “After that, I read an account of someone’s normal day, except it’s written in Middle English. In it, some rather intelligent armies clash by night: no you are, Matthew Arnold!”). What’s striking about these moments is that they point up the way these activities structure the conversation of young men without being condescending about it. In effect, they treat sports, including fantasy sports and video games, as the natural stuff of poetry, which seems pretty reasonable.
Read the whole thing here.]]>