Week 5 – Blog prompt — Transatlantic Modernism

Option 1 — Do a close reading of the following passage from William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All (1923), a major American modernist work. (By close reading, I mean focus in on particular words and phrases and the way they build a symbolic pattern that supports the writer’s meaning.) Quote one of the readings for this week (Jones, for example) to explain how Williams conceives imagination and poetic composition in gendered ways, related to waste, efficiency, and flow.

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Option 2 — Compare the two versions of modernity presented this week: the earlier European versus the later American version. What does waste represent in each context, and is it more or less valued in the European or American context? Use quotes from at least one of the readings to support your argument.

Week 4 — Psychoanalysis and Waste

Prompt 1: Does psychoanalytic thought (Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, etc.) construe waste as a necessary “other” to psychic health in a consistent way? Or is there a break between Freud and later psychoanalytic theorists in their approach to waste?

Prompt 2: How is waste gendered in the different psychoanalytic thinkers we’ve read this week? Is this gendering consistent? Is there a politics behind this gendering, and if so, is it positive?

Prompt 3:  Can Ana’s crisis in Clarice Lispector’s story “Love” be elucidated through Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection? Does waste at either the conceptual level or the material level play a part in her crisis?

Blog prompt for class 3, Wednesday 2/15

Class: reminder there’s no class next Monday. Instead we’ll meet on Wednesday, 2/15 at 6:30.

Here are next week’s prompts. Choose only one of the three prompts below. (And even within each prompt, you do not need to consider every question posed — just the ones that are more productive for you.) Reply in the comments below.

One of the tenets of structuralist anthropology is that the structures of behavior (rituals, symbolism, etc.) are similar across cultures, even if the details differ. For example, in Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas argues that rituals of dirtiness and cleanliness recur in all cultures, whether or not they are “primitive” or modern. While the particular object or behavior that is considered “dirt” or “dirty” may differ, the underlying structure is essentially the same.

1. Do the tenets of structuralist anthropology outlined above—that common structures recur across cultures—also hold true within Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island, about an in-house corporate anthropologist called U? For example, does U.’s style of anthropology at the corporation differ from the ways that classical anthropologists would characterize their work (as beginning with “field work” in an “exotic” location)? What’s similar and what’s different? You can draw on U.’s own views for your response (though bear in mind that he is often an unreliable narrator).
2. Why do you think the author Tom McCarthy makes his protagonist an anthropologist? What special meanings and vantage points does it provide him? What if anything does it say about the relationship between fiction and fact as we normally think of these categories?
3. What meanings do figures of excess and pollution hold in the novel (for example, the oil spill)? What if anything do they help U. understand about the systems he is trying to describe? Do they help us understand anything about the world the author is describing?

Class Updates


Just to let you know that I shared the Dropbox folder with all of you after Monday’s class, so if you didn’t get a notice via email, let me know ASAP and I’ll connect you.

Also, I just wanted to alert you to events with Mierle Laderman Ukeles at Queens Museum this next two weekends. The exhibit closes in mid-February so your chance is soon.


Birthing Tikkun Olam: Your Idea to Repair the World: A performance exchange with artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Peace Table, serves as the site for convenings on peace, from the personal to citywide to the global. Ukeles and the Museum have conceived a series of public programs meant to engage and contemporize some of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art’s important themes.

As part of Birthing Tikkun Olam, a participatory work which invites the public to commit to a way they can “repair the world,” Birthing Tikkun Olam: Your Idea to Repair the World is a performative interchange with the artist, who will exchange your written and signed individual covenant for a double-sided mirror from the installation (supplies are limited on a first come, first served basis). The work is inspired by the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which means to heal or to transform. Ukeles will also be introducing her Fresh Kills-related proposal for one million people to participate in a public artwork (Fresh Kills: Public Offerings Made By All, Redeemed by All).

Come prepared with one idea to improve the world and leave endowed with the inspiration to achieve it, and a permanent reminder of your commitment.

Care as Culture: Artists, Activists and Scientists Build Coalitions to Resist Climate Change
A Convening Around the Peace Table

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Peace Table, serves as the site for convenings on peace, from the personal to citywide to global. Ukeles and the Museum have conceived a series of public programs meant to engage and contemporize some of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art’s important themes.

Care as Culture is the final convening that brings the perspectives of eco-artists, activists, and experts on climate change together to interrogate and enrich culture’s place in the movements for environmental justice. Reflecting on a hallmark of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ practice, one goal of the roundtable is to brainstorm methods for coalition building across these disciplines, effectively multiplying the power to confront an environmental, political, and spiritual crisis in our increasingly antagonistic time. How can we create a broad cultural movement to combat the campaign promises of the United States’ incoming administration to dismantle many of the policies addressing the effects of climate change?

To demonstrate the benefits and challenges of coalition building, artists and their interdisciplinary collaborators will present case studies from their own work and brainstorm what future possibilities might exist for this strategic model to continue. These will be followed by a larger discussion with a group of invited eco-artists, activists, and scientists about how successful coalitions can be introduced, and the urgent ways artists can begin the process of coalition building. What prevents us from working together and how can we advocate for change?

Case study speakers include Newton Harrison, The Natural History Museum, Natalie Jeremijenko, and Mary Mattingly. Respondents include Carol Becker, Francesco Fiondella, Allan Frei, Hope Ginsburg, Alicia Grullon, Amy Lipton, Lisa Marshall, Jennifer McGregor, Aviva Rahmani, Jason Smerdon, Stephanie Wakefield, and Marina Zurkow.


Blog response for week 2 (Feb. 6) — general introductions to waste

Prompt 1: In her article, “The Death of Nature and the Apotheosis of Trash….,” Patricia Yaeger writes:

[A]n old opposition between nature and culture has been displaced in postmodern art by a preoccupation with trash: the result of weird and commodity-based intermingling. If nature once represented the before (creating culture as child, product, or second nature) and if detritus represented the after (that which was marginalized, repressed, or tossed away), these representations have lost their appeal. We are born into a detritus strewn world, and the nature that buffets us is never culture’s opposite. (Yaeger 323)

How do you make sense of what Yaeger means by this? In your analysis, pull in an example from elsewhere in her essay, or from the Calvino or Cohen/Jonhson readings.

Alternative Prompt: Write a self-portrait as a waster or garbage producer. Some thing you might include (though you can approach this however you like and you do not need to answer all – or any – of these questions): What do you collect and why? What do you throw out that other people might keep? What do you keep or buy or find that other people might throw out? What makes you decide to value something? Have you ever changed your approach to waste? You may think of the Calvino article as a kind of inspiration.