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March 2, 2017

March 2, 2017
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Argument: Today we heard this BBC podcast about Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” 

Three significant questions/takeaways:

  • What kind of satire is this? It is an example of Juvenalian satire, and thus is a harsh and pointed attack on its institutional targets.
  • Who/what were the targets of this satire? They were not only the Irish government and the absentee landlords; they were also the poor (mostly Catholics) themselves, and most specifically, the social reforms proposed by essayists like Sir William Petty, who believed that social problems could be solved mathematically.
  • To what extent does the essay reflect Swift’s personal views? We know that Swift, who was coming off the success of Gulliver’s Travels three years earlier, held himself in high regard. He might have believed this essay could have an effect on public policy (although it didn’t in any meaningful way). You could also view it, as a couple of the guests on this podcast did, as the final work of a man who knew he wasn’t going to be heard. It does have a somewhat fatalistic (as well as sarcastic) tone, and it is true that after publishing this essay anonymously, Swift only wrote poetry thereafter. What is more certain is that Swift was conflicted: as both a defender and critic of the poor, and also as someone who felt pulled between England and Ireland.

For Tuesday, I gave you an essay to read: “Hold Your Horsepower,” by Lyla Fox.

Your job is to:

  • Identify the primary claim, and the type of claim that it is.
  • Identify the appeals used.
  • Write a short (one-page) rebuttal of this essay, based on the above information.

Adaptation: Today we talked about Leitch and the Twelve Fallacies paper. The takeaway, finally, is this: Leitch is asserting that instead of trying to double down and create a proper field for “adaptation study,” perhaps we should reframe the discussion to be inclusive of intertexts of all kinds. He proposed calling this field “Textual Studies,” including elements from cultural studies, cinema studies, literature, and other related fields.

At the beginning of the year, we posed a lot of questions regarding what exactly adaptation is, what makes it good, how it should be judged or considered, and others. The answers to these questions aren’t totally easy or straightforward, as Leitch illustrates well here. We could take a somewhat limited/reduced view of the topic, as Chatman appears to do, or we could open the door in the way Leitch suggests and see what we find on the other side. Moving forward, we will do the latter.

This month we’ll be dealing primarily with fairy tales. I gave you a packet to read for Tuesday – there are several Grimm fairy tales and one non-Grimm piece (Jack and the Beanstalk). Regarding the Grimm tales: these are a recent translation (!) of the very original versions that Grimm published (in the future, Grimm would revise and update some of these tales). This won’t have a great deal of bearing on us as we move forward, but it’s worth noting nonetheless – particularly given the context of this class.

Siren: Today you worked on March and April stuff. We handed out a piece of Miss McCollough’s for workshopping, which we will do (along with all the other pieces you have already responded to) next Tuesday.

There will be a couple of other pieces I will give out for workshopping — they, along with Miss McCollough’s piece, will be due Tuesday.

Prompt: 

Publishing: Today a few more of you completed your cards. We’ll shift gears next week.

Comedy: Continued our screening of The Philadelphia Story. Remember that you should be looking out for possible evidence of the code in this film. In the back of your mind, compare it to the pre-code films we’ve screened, especially She Done Him Wrong and Tillie.

Survey: CNF: Today I handed back your “planners” for your sense of place essays. They were good; I made notes about the ones where I thought theme needed to be improved.

These essays are due next Thursday; I bumped the date back a couple of days because I am releasing you from the five-paragraph, moment/riff/moment/riff/moment format for this one (although you can still use it if you want to). I expect to see essays that:

  • Have a discernable theme.
  • Pass the yellow test.
  • Avoid “summing things up” in an “in conclusion”-style final paragraph. Some of you still need to be broken of this habit.

We then listened to the ritual humiliation of Mike Daisey, who illustrates perfectly the dangers Lee Gutkind spoke of in the excerpt you just read.

I expect you to know the basics of what you heard: who Mike Daisey was (and still is); what he was writing about and for what program; and what he did that got him in trouble.

But more important, I want you to focus on two things from this broadcast:

  • The quote from Daisey’s Chinese interpreter, Kathy, who said (innocently) that Daisey is “a writer” so he’s “allowed” to make stuff up. Takeaway: a significant number of people believe that all writing (even the true stuff, like CNF) is all made up.
  • Mike Daisey’s response to Ira Glass, in (losing) defense of what he did: he just wanted to “make people care.” This, as Ira Glass pointed out, assumes that it’s not possible to “make people care” by telling the truth. Hopefully, that isn’t true. We’ll pick things up there next week.
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