Monday, 22 September 2008

A rhetorical exercise in which Kurt Loder makes a brief cameo* So a guy writes a song: At one point I found myself going, "I can't write a song about Batman, I'm in an alternative band." And I thought this is stupid, if I can write a song about Batman and it serves the purpose . . . and connects with something that is unique and original, then, why not? . . . I was trying to represent Batman. The director of the video says this: But [the guy] really wanted to explore Batman's brain. The result is this: How did Corgan propose getting inside Batman's head? By getting inside Batman's head. Given that the video was for Batman on Ice—a.k.a. The Curious Case of the Governor and Mr. Nipples—I'm not sure there's much there in there to be filled out. This is Batman as camp, so the lyrics contain all the psychological depth and insight of the television series. And yet: Ain't it funny how the film the song advertises influences our take on the lyrics?** The camp of Schumacher's Batman & Robin is buried beneath the literalism of Zack Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen. And where did fans first see this preview? Before The Dark Knight. (A film whose complexities a Doctor of Philosophy of English affirms.) Where am I headed with this? An exercise in visual rhetoric for my upcoming course. (About which more momentarily.) They'll already have seen Batman Begins and read Watchmen, so they should be able to handle the tone and source material aspect of the conversation. *The MTV News item I quote here begins with Kurt Loder saying: "The band also gets to shoot a tie-in video for the song, and Chris Connelly stopped by the set to ask the question, 'Have you guys sold out, or what?'" Cut to the report. Upon returning, Kurt Loder says: "Joining the Pumpkins on the 'Batman' soundtrack will be R. Kelly, Jewel, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony among others." I officially miss Kurt Loder now. **Yes, I know it's been remixed, and that plays a part in it, but bear with me here.
A David Foster Wallace Syllabus (x-posted.) (via UD.) One of David Foster Wallace’s students posted the syllabus to his “Literary Interpretation” course. Before anyone accuses me of taking a morbid interest in the recently deceased, let me say this: people who write syllabi appreciate a fine syllabi, and this is a fine syllabi. Here’s the “BASIC COURSE SPIEL”: The goals of this section of E67 are to survey certain important forms of modern literature—short stories, novels, poems—and to introduce you to some techniques for achieving a critical appreciation of literary art. “Critical appreciation” means having smart, sophisticated reasons for liking whatever literature you like, and being able to articulate those reasons to other people, especially in writing. Vital for critical appreciation is the ability to “interpret” a piece of literature, which basically means coming up with a cogent, interesting account of what a piece of lit means, what it’s trying to do to/for the reader, what technical choices the author’s made in order to achieve the effects she wants, and so on. As you can probably anticipate, the whole thing gets very complicated and abstract and hard, which is one reason why entire college departments are devoted to studying and interpreting literature. From the “Caveat Emptor Page”: (2) Your instructor has taught intro lit courses before, but not for several years, and never before at a college this selective. The upshot is that there may be a certain pedagogical clunkiness about this section of English 67. You will, in effect, be helping me learn how to teach this class. The level of our discussions may have to be adjusted up, or down, depending on how well-prepared you guys are and how quickly you catch on to the concepts and techniques of “close reading.” Certain approaches might turn out to be a waste of time. There may be abrupt changes in the syllabus. Extra work may be added. Let me say that again: Extra work may be added. (4) Your instructor has high standards for the written work you turn in. Take another close look at Course Rules & Procedures Items 4 and 7 on page 3 of the syllabus. I know that many professors say this kind of hard-ass stuff at the beginning of the term but don’t actually mean it or enforce it as the course wears on. I, however, do mean it, and I will enforce it—feel free to verify this with students who’ve taken other classes with me. If you want to improve your academic writing and are willing to put extra time and effort into it, I am a good teacher to have. But if you’re used to whipping off papers the night before they’re due, running them quickly through the computer’s Spellchecker, handing them in full of high-school errors and sentences that make no sense, and having the professor accept them “because the ideas are good” or something, please be informed that I draw no distinction between the quality of one’s ideas and the quality of those ideas’ verbal expression,...

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