Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Long Teaching Day

Tuesdays are my long teaching day this fall. In Homo Economicus I'm throwing the kids into the deep end of the pool, right into the 1660s, with Dunmore's film "The Libertine" about Rochester on whom so many of the wit protagonists of Restoration mannered comedy are modeled. I actually am a bit meh about the film's dramatic structure and think Depp's performance is off, but the flavor of period London playhouses comes through and that's the crucial thing. Later in the day, in my critical theory survey we are taking up the paradoxes of "The Soul of Man Under Socialism." Paradox is both the method and the symptom of the piece -- rather than offer a program in the piece Wilde creates an occasion for the reader to enjoy the freedom of pleasurable engagements with paradox while at once deconstructing through paradox most of the sites of authority in his society -- ultimately, however, Wilde is trapped in the society of his day and must live its contradictions, so the chief paradoxical insight of his piece (that we are dispossessed by our possessiveness) is affirmed and then denied as he re-erects property at the site of artistic creation to elude the threat of Victorian homophobia. The first chapter of W.E.B. DuBois' Souls of Black Folk is the companion piece -- the lethality of lived contradictions, the marginalization which yields both critical insight and disabling blindness, the paradox of exclusion and indispensability all recur here. In a course in which so many theorists seek mastery of the scrum of historical struggle through an alienated reflective distance, our readings begin with the subversive alienation that yields a criticality without much hope of mastery. We'll be spending a lot of time with Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and their aftermath in the weeks to come, but Wilde and DuBois return (not least in Debord and Fanon) as we move toward the course's conclusion. I won't return home till late tonight, so today and most Tuesdays blogging will be low to no.

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