Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Stories & Narratives (Concepts and Theories)

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. "The Danger of a Single Story." TED Global (2009) ["Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."]

Argabright, Sachi, Bezi, and Kendra Winchester. "On Afrofuturism and Parable of the Sower." Reading Women (February 19, 2020) ["So Afrofuturism, in short—and as you will soon learn in the rest of the episode, nothing about this is short, but I will try and give a short version—Afrofuturism can be understood as the way that Black people think about and imagine futures that usually involve ideas about science fiction, aliens, post-apocalyptic futures, and fantastic devices and metaphors. So it can incorporate, as the title of this book suggests, science fiction, fantasy, dystopia, and a whole bunch of other subgenres beneath those. But the idea is that it primarily centers Black futures—and Black and African understandings of . . . and mythologies and worldviews."]

Armstrong, Karen. "The Lost Art of Scripture." Radio West (December 31, 2020) ["Sacred text – with their often ambiguous wording and metaphorical meanings – are ready-made for differing interpretations from various groups. In her book, The Lost Art of Scripture, Karen looks into the history of these texts, showing how religious practitioners' relationships with them have changed, and how many of us have lost sight of what they were originally written for."]

Azevedo, Luis. "The Sensual World of Claire Denis." Little White Lies (April 15, 2019) ["Filtering the cinematic landscape of this master filmmaker through the five senses."]

Bass, Diana Butler. "The SBC Sexual Abuse Scandal is a Success Story of the Theological Vision and Social Structure Implemented by the Conservative Resurgence." Religion Dispatches (June 3, 2022) ["At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities." - Jimmy Carter on why he left the SBC after the Fundamentalist takeover in 1985.]

Bennett, Michael Ivan and Gregory Claeys. "Dystopia." Radio West (April 23, 2018) ["Monday, we’re talking about dystopias. Which means we’re also talking about utopias. You can’t have one without the other. Whether political, environmental, or technological, literary or historical, dystopias are what you get when our ideas of societal perfection run up against the hard truths of reality and the flaws of human nature. We’ll discuss where the idea of dystopia comes from, what dystopian worlds look like, and what they say about who we are, what we hope for, and what we fear."]

Benton, Michael D. "Exit Through the Gift Shop." North of Center (March 2, 2011) [A discussion of Banksy: "Humans are narrative creatures, homo fabulans, who seek meaning and are open to narrative constructions. We all laugh at the person who is unable to perceive that their favorite TV star is not the character they play, but is this all that different from those of us who are unable to perceive the surreality of the infotainment with which we are presented 24/7? When it comes to more important political and social issues, how does this play out in our perceptions of what is right and wrong? Do most people investigate for themselves and use their knowledge to produce their own meanings, or do they sit back and allow talking heads to tell them what to think? ... What do you do, though, when the populace has been colonized so heavily by the invading forces? How do you get them to recognize their enslavement or to begin to imagine something different? How do you deal with the lackey art world that supports the dominant structure of passive consumption, corporate branding and obsessive collecting? What does an artist do, when they know their art depends on a critical audience to respond as co-creators, to wake people up? Especially when all of their direct actions of defiance and critique are immediately repurposed and delimited for safe consumption in the 24-hour titillation news cycle."]

---. "Ideological Becoming." Dialogic Cinephilia (September 30, 2022)

---. "Navigating the New World." North of Center (December 4, 2019) ["As citizens of a globalized world it is imperative that we develop a broader awareness of key issues in the American public sphere. There are many pathways to take; sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the many options available to us, or the immensity of understanding the full context of current social trends, viral cultural phenomenons, or contentious political events. It is like staring at a newly opened puzzle: we see pieces scattered across a table, random parts detached and disconnected from the larger coherent picture. It can seem overwhelming and impossible at first, even when you have a reproduction telling you what the larger picture looks like. But slowly you pick up a piece, get a sense of its configuration, and imagine how it connects to another piece. Some pieces don’t immediately work and you set them aside for a moment to take a look at newer pieces. Sets or groupings eventually emerge, and you match those together until you have larger sections. Suddenly, surprisingly, the pieces take shape as a whole image." In that moment when we can glance at the picture (theory) of life/world that has formed in our consciousness, we can feel certain in the moment about what we know, but we must remain open to the partial nature of all human knowledge and how our understanding (if we are open to change/development) is always evolving.]

---. "Violence in Films." North of Center (November 9, 2011)

Benton, Michael Dean and Michael Marchman. "So long—it’s been good to know ya: Remembering Howard Zinn." North of Center (February 13, 2010)

Berger, John. Permanent Red: Essays in Seeing. Writers & Readers Publishing, 2007. [“Why should an artist’s way of looking at the world have any meaning for us? Why does it give us pleasure? Because, I believe, it increases our awareness of our own potentiality.”]

Biagetti, Samuel. "Myth of the Month #16: The Founding Fathers." Historiansplaining (April 1, 2022)  ["The 'Founding Fathers' -- the most rarefied club in American history -- stand in for everything we love or hate about this country, from its civic and religious freedom to its white supremacism. As if carved in stone (which they oftentimes are), they loom over every political debate, even though most of us know next to nothing about them, or even who counts as one of the group. Coined by that immortal wordsmith, President Warren Harding, the phrase "Founding Fathers" serves as an empty vessel for civic emotion, conveniently covering over the actual history of struggle, conflict, and contention that shaped the American republic." Book resources: Woody Holton, Forced Founders and Unruly Americans and the Origins of the US Consitution; Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution; Gerald Horne, The Counter-Revolution of 1776; Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution; Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers.]

---. "Nag Hammadi Library and the Gnostic Gospels." Historiansplaining (August 1, 2022) ["The secretive Gnostic stream of Christianity, which taught a radically different metaphysics and spiritual cosmology from "orthodox" doctrine in the first four hundred years of the church, was largely lost to history, until 1945, when a camel-herder in a remote part of Egypt stumbled upon an old ceremic jar with 13 massive books containing 52 ancient Gnostic texts. We consider what the so-called "Nag Hammadi LIbrary," which may have been hidden in the desert to protect it from destruction, reveals about the origins and importance of the Gnostics' secret teachings."]

Bilson, Anne. "The Vampire as Metaphor." Screen Studies (Excerpted from Bilson's book Let the Right One In: "Audiences can't get enough of fang fiction. Twilight, True Blood, Being Human, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, Underworld, and the novels of Anne Rice and Darren Shan—against this glut of bloodsuckers, it takes an incredible film to make a name for itself. Directed by Tomas Alfredson and adapted for the screen by John Ajvide Lindqvist, The Swedish film Làt den rätte komma in (2008), known to American audiences as Let the Right One In, is the most exciting, subversive, and original horror production since the genre's best-known works of the 1970s. Like Twilight, Let the Right One In is a love story between a human and a vampire—but that is where the resemblance ends. Set in a snowy, surburban housing estate in 1980s Stockholm, the film combines supernatural elements with social realism. It features Oskar, a lonely, bullied child, and Eli, the girl next door. "Oskar, I'm not a girl," she tells him, and she's not kidding—she's a vampire. The two forge an intense relationship that is at once innocent and disturbing. Two outsiders against the world, one of these outsiders is, essentially, a serial killer. What does Eli want from Oskar? Simple companionship, or something else? While startlingly original, Let the Right One In could not have existed without the near century of vampire cinema that preceded it. Anne Billson reviews this history and the film's inheritence of (and new twists on) such classics as Nosferatu (1979) and Dracula (1931). She discusses the genre's early fliration with social realism in films such as Martin (1977) and Near Dark (1987), along with its adaptation of mythology to the modern world, and she examines the changing relationship between vampires and humans, the role of the vampire's assistant, and the enduring figure of vampires in popular culture."]

Bittencourt, Ella. "Portrait of a Lady on Fire: Daring to See." The Current (June 23, 2020) ["Around the besotted lovers, the film envisions a social contract defined by a strong sense of community among women, no matter their age or class. It takes place in the late eighteenth century, but it also speaks to our own time, as many women continue to call for intersectional solidarity in their fight for equality. It is no accident that here the engine of this revolution is art. Sciamma, who grew up outside Paris and would bike into a neighboring town to go to the movies, creates a provincial world in which art—both as a technique governed by solemn tradition and a practical tool for remaking one’s world—is a part of daily life, and in which the artist’s gaze is reciprocal, not one-sided. Similarly, the film presents the act of falling in love not through the (quintessentially male, one might say) lens of conquest and possession but through one of equality between the two lovers, creating a reality in which each can truly see the other."]

Bius, Joel R. "What Cigarettes Tell Us About the Military-Industrial Complex." War College (February 2, 2019) ["Drugs and the battlefield go together like peanut butter and jelly. The Third Reich’s soldier ran on methamphetamine and American soldiers smoked like chimneys. The picture of the US GI with a burning cigarette pressed between their lips is so iconic that few people question it...or realize how young the image really is. Joel R. Bius, assistant professor of national security studies at the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College, is here to help us dispel the myth of the great American military cigarette and walk us through the fascinating history of how cigarettes ended up in the US military kit, and how they left. It’s the subject of his new book, Smoke Em If You Got Em: The Rise and Fall of the Military Cigarette Ration."]

Bogutskaya, Anna, et al. "Promising Young Podcast #1 - A Woman's Worst Nightmare." The Final Girls (April 16, 2021) ["A mini-pod dedicated to Emerald Fennell's blistering revenge fairytale, Promising Young Woman. The first episode is a (mostly) spoiler-free in-depth review."]

---. "Promising Young Podcast #2 - But I'm A Nice Guy ." The Final Girls (April 24, 2021) [" In this episode we discuss the nice guy trope and the way the film depicts it."]

---. "Promising Young Podcast #3 - Hell Hath No Fury Like a Critic Scorned." The Final Girls (May 3, 2021) [" In this episode we discuss the divisive reaction, accolades and critiques the film has received."]

---. "Promising Young Podcast #4 - Girls Just Want to Not Get Assaulted." The Final Girls (May 17, 2021) ["In this episode we discuss the real big bad of the film: rape culture."]

Boje, David M. and Robert F. Dennehy. Managing in the Postmodern World: America’s Revolution Against Exploitation. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1993. ["People who do not tell stories well, listen to stories effectively and learn to deconstruct those stories with a skeptical ear will be more apt to be victims of … exploitation and power games. Stories have many interpretations. If one interpretation gets pasted over all the rest and becomes a dominant or the only political acceptable way to interpret events, we have ideology, domination, and disempowerment. Part of exploitation is to deny an interpretation, point of view, or experience, that differs from the dominant view. Rhetoric about healthy, happy, and terrific harmony and unity can mask just the opposite reality. A simple sounding moral or prescription about consensus or teamwork can mask deeper costs in terms of power and domination. (339) 
Story Deconstruction Method 1. Duality Search. Make a list of any bipolar terms, any dichotomies that are used in the story. Include the term even if only one side is mentioned. 2. Reinterpret. A story is one interpretation of an event from one point of view. Write out an alternative interpretation using the same story particulars. 3. Rebel Voices. Deny the authority of the one voice. What voices are being expressed in this story? Which voices are subordinate or hierarchical to other voices? 4. Other Side of the Story. Stories always have two sides. What is the [other] side of the story (usually a marginalized, under-represented, or even silent) …? 5. Deny the Plot. Stories have plots, scripts, scenarios, recipes, and morals. Turn these around. 6. Find the Exception. What is the exception that breaks the rule, that does not fit the recipe, that escapes the strictures of the principle? State the rule in a way that makes it seem extreme or absurd. 7. State What is Between the Lines. What is not said? What is the writing on the wall? Fill in the blanks. … What are you filling in? With what alternate way[s] could you fill it in? (340)"]

Bredin, John. "2 or 3 Ways Godard Taught Us How to Speak and Live." Acidemic (2013) ["Shy people take notice. Sometimes we become shy (and I myself still feel shy at times, depending, naturally, on who I'm with, or the situation), better still, let me phrase it a different way: we say that we're shy, or inarticulate, or afraid to talk, when in reality we're simply numbed by over-exposure to the prepackaged speech of movies and television shows: talk that's fakely fluid in the Hollywood sense. After watching actors speak brilliantly, dashing off hilarious applause lines as if they were talking naturally when, in reality, they spent days or weeks memorizing a pre-written script by comparison, our own conversational offerings might appear flat and boring to us. Certainly too, in a media-saturated age such as ours, because of our overexposure to glib, slick, oily-tongued, sonorous anchor people and celebrities, one could easily see how a person might get the false, even monstrous impression that this is how real people should talk. Unable to achieve such a bizarre standard of faux eloquence in our own speech, we clam up. Philosopher Maxine Greene, critiquing such indurations in the mundane, talks about the need to resist passivity, to, partly through reflective art encounters she says, escape submergence in the everyday, the routine, the banal. Such submergence ought to include our current mass drowning, if you will, in a sea of pop cultural and media kitsch: a filling up of our heads, like the white cream inside a Twinkie, with a combination of advertisements, pop cultural fluff, and the grave pronouncements of the talking heads. Might such an inexorable assault on our cognitive and aesthetic apparatus tamp down our capacity to generate our own unique and creative thoughts, disabling our ability to write (and speak) our own essays to the world?"]

Brooks, Peter. Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative. New York Review of Books, 2022. ["In this spiritual sequel to his influential Reading for the Plot, Peter Brooks examines the dangerously alluring power of storytelling. "There's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can defeat it." Thus spake Tyrion in the final episode of Game of Thrones, claiming the throne for Bran the Broken. Many viewers liked neither the choice of king nor its rationale. But the claim that story brings you to world dominance seems by now so banal that it's common wisdom. Narrative seems to have become accepted as the one and only form of knowledge and speech that regulates human affairs. So begins the scholar and literary critic Peter Brooks's reckoning with today's flourishing cult of story. Forty years after Brooks published his seminal work Reading for the Plot, his own important contribution to what came to be known as the "narrative turn" in contemporary criticism and philosophy, he returns to question the unquestioning fashion in which story is now embraced as an excuse or explanation and the fact that every brand or politician comes equipped with one. In a discussion that ranges from Gone Girl to legal argument, to the power storytellers exercise over their audiences, to what it means for readers and listeners to project themselves imaginatively into fictional characters, Brooks reminds us that among the powers of narrative is the power to deceive. Precisely because story does command our attention so much, we must be skeptical of it and cultivate ways of thinking about our world and ourselves that run counter to our penchant for a good story."]

"Buying the War: How Did the Mainstream Press Get It So Wrong." Bill Moyers Journal (2007) [On the buildup to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars after 9/11.]

Campbell, Joseph. "Creativity Within Myth." Pathways #17 (October 1, 2022) ["Listened to this while running Denis this morning, and was struck by the discussion of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese art; but even more so, by the unique philosophies of life he outlines from these traditions (play, listening, non-action, openness)."]

Cutting, James E. Movies On Our Mind: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement. Oxford University Press, 2021. ["This book traces the development of popular cinema from its inception to the present day to understand why humankind has expanded its viewing of popular movies over the last century. Drawing from his extensive work as a psychologist studying artistic canons, James E. Cutting presents hundreds of films across a wide range of genres and eras, considers the structure of frame content, shots, scenes, and larger narrational elements defined by color, brightness, motion, clutter, and range of other variables. He examines the effects of camera lenses, image layout, transitions, and historical functions to classify different kinds of shots. He explains the arcs of scenes, the larger structure of sequences, and the scene- and sequence-like units that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The book then breaks movies into larger, roughly half-hour parts and espouses the psychological evidence behind each device's intended effect, ultimately exploring the rhythms of whole movies, the flow of physical changes, and the cinematic polyrhythms that have come to match aspects those in the human body. Along the way, the book considers cultural and technological evolutions that have contributed to shifts in viewers' engagement by sustaining attention, promoting understanding of the narrative, heightening emotional commitment, and fostering felt presence in the story. Movies on Our Minds asks critical questions about how our emotional processes and the way our experiences of movies have changed over the course of cinematic history, for a cutting-edge look at what makes popular movies enjoyable."]

Davis, Wade. "Anthropologist Wade Davis Discusses His Life and Work." New Books in Anthropology (May 5, 2021) ["Of the three major influences on Wade Davis’ life and work one of the most important is the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder, and in this interview the professor shares how foundational that connection remains. This is just one highlight of many he shares about his thinking and writing as Wade indulges my interest in his ‘craft of culture’ on his path to becoming a renowned storyteller. This professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia, former Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society, and award-winning author, Davis shares the interesting back stories of his best-selling first book, The Serpent and The Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey Into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis, and Magic, about his research into Haitian ‘zombie poison’, how his hypothesis was publically challenged, and how the Hollywood movie version was just the kind of cultural distortion he was trying to overcome with his book. In the course of talking about this first book which helped launch his writing career he shares thoughts about academic writing more generally and in particular how his PhD thesis, Passage of Darkness, is really a sterile version of the richer and more textured narrative of the first book even though the latter is preferred by academics. For that matter, Wade has something to say about academic objectivity before we move on to talk about his influential One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest, his CBC lectures-inspired The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, and his award-winning Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. He also speaks at length about the influence of his Harvard mentors – the British anthropologist David May Ray Lewis, and the botanist and plant explorer Richard Evan Schultes, and how he and the late botanical explorer Tim Plowman made up the ‘coca project’ and the significance of ‘the divine leaf of immortality’."]

---. Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Anansi, 2009. ["Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? In The Wayfinders, renowned anthropologist, winner of the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world's indigenous cultures. In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true lost civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the earth really is alive, while in Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive. Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. For at risk is the human legacy -- a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time."]

De Fren, Allison. "Fembot in a Red Dress." (Posted on Vimeo: 2016) ["This video essay examines the cultural trope of the “lady in red” as it evolved from the genre of film noir to science fiction and from the human to the artificial female in a variety of film and television texts."]

---. "Ex Machina: Questioning the Human Machine." (Posted on Vimeo: 2017) ["The British science-fiction thriller Ex Machina (2015) has inspired mixed reactions from both critics and audiences. While some praise its tautly-rendered exploration of artificial intelligence, others critique its stereotypical representations of fembots. This video essay examines why some walk away from the film thinking about the Turing test (a gauge for determining whether a machine exhibits intelligence equivalent to that of a human) and others the Bechdel test (a touchstone for determining male bias in a film), making it perhaps, above all, a Rorschach test for our times."]

Doyle, Emily. "On Sex, Soul Loneliness, and Walking toward Terror: A Conversation with R. O. Kwon." World Literature Today (January 2023) ["Writing toward fear, toward terror, tends to be fruitful. If nothing else, you’re not bored. ... When people are engaged in sex or thinking about or wanting sex, they’re vulnerable. Literature loves vulnerability."]

Durgnaut, Raymond. A Long Hard Look at Psycho. British Film Institute, 2010. ["Upon its release in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho divided critical opinion, with several leading film critics condemning Hitchcock's apparent encouragement of the audience's identification with the gruesome murder that lies at the heart of the film. Such antipathy did little to harm Psycho's box-office returns, and it would go on to be acknowledged as one of the greatest film thrillers, with scenes and characters that are among the most iconic in all cinema. In his illuminating study of Psycho, Raymond Durgnat provides a minute analysis of its unfolding narrative, enabling us to consider what happens to the viewer as he or she watches the film, and to think afresh about questions of spectatorship, Hollywood narrative codes, psycho-analysis, editing and shot composition. In his introduction to the new edition, Henry K. Miller presents A Long Hard Look at 'Psycho' as the culmination of Durgnat's decades-long campaign to correct what he called film studies' 'Grand Error'. In the course of expounding Durgnat's root-and-branch challenge to our inherited shibboleths about Hollywood cinema in general and Hitchcock in particular, Miller also describes the eclectic intellectual tradition to which Durgnat claimed allegiance. This band of amis inconnus, among them William Empson, Edgar Morin and Manny Farber, had at its head Durgnat's mentor Thorold Dickinson. The book's story begins in the early 1960s, when Dickinson made the long hard look the basis of his pioneering film course at the Slade School of Fine Art, and Psycho became one of its first objects."]

Estes, Nick. "The Empire of All Maladies: Colonial Contagions and Indigenous Resistance." The Baffler #52 (July 2020) ["One of the most potent myths of mainstream U.S. historiography concerns what Indigenous archaeologist Michael V. Wilcox calls “terminal narratives”: an obsession with the death, disappearance, and absence of Indigenous people rather than their continued, visible presence and challenge to colonialism. The most obvious example of this tendency are historical models that assign blame for the mass killing of the Indigenous to invisible, chance forces—above all, the diseases colonizers unwittingly carried with them—rather than to calculated warfare and theft over centuries of relentless European invasion."]

Ford, Phil and J.F. Martel. "Demon Workshop: On Victoria Nelson's Neighbor George." Weird Studies #128 (July 19, 2022) ["The American writer and thinker Victoria Nelson is justly revered by afficionados of the Weird for The Secret Life of Puppets and its follow-up Gothicka. Both are masterful explorations the supernatural as it subsists in the "sub-Zeitgeist" of the modern secular West. In 2021, Strange Attractor Press released Neighbor George, Nelson's first novel. In this episode, JF and Phil discuss this gothic anti-romance with a mind to seeing how it contributes to Nelson's overall project of acquainting us with the eldritch undercurrents of contemporary life."]

Freedman, Jill and Gene Combs. Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1996. ["... the beliefs, values, institutions, customs, labels, laws, divisions of labor, and the like that make up our social realities are constructed by the members of a culture as they interact with one another from generation to generation and day to day. That is, societies construct the “lenses” through which their members interpret the world. The realities that each of us take for granted are the realities that our societies have surround us with since birth. These realities provide the beliefs, practices, words, and experiences from which we make up our lives, or, ... “constitute our selves.” ... we see how the stories that circulate in society constitute our lives and those of the people we work with. We also notice how the stories of individual lives can influence the constitution of whole cultures—not just the stories of people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but also those of people like Pocahontas, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, and Tina Turner, as well as the stories of ordinary people whose name we have never heard (Freedman and Combs: 16-17). This conception of self is at odds with the skin-bound container with fixed contents (resources) that we had previously conceptualized. ... If we were really to adapt these new ways of thinking and perceiving—which we wanted to do because of the kinds of therapy they support—we would become responsible for continually constituting ourselves as the people we wanted to be. We would have to examine taken-for-granted stories in our local culture, the contexts we moved in, the relationships we cultivated, and the like, so as to continually re-author and update our own stories. Morality and ethics would not be fixed things, but ongoing activities, requiring continuing maintenance and attention (Freedman/Combs: 17). What is important here … is that change, whether it be change of belief, relationship, feeling, or self-concept, involves a change in language. … Meanings are always somewhat indeterminate, and therefore mutable. … Meaning is not carried in a word by itself, but by the word in relation to its context, and no two contexts will be exactly the same. Thus the precise meaning of any word is always somewhat indeterminate, and potentially different; it is always something to be negotiated between two or more speakers or between a text and a reader (Freedman/Combs: 29)."]

Gabriele, Matthew and David M. Perry. "The Case for the Bright Ages." On the Media (January 14, 2022) ["Today, when we encounter the medieval world it’s mostly a dark time. Un-enlightened by reason, but also literally gloomy – all bare stone and grey skies. We know it as a brutal time, dominated by white men with steeds and swords, or drenched in blood by marauding Vikings. But in their new book, The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe, historians Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry trace the harm of the myths of the “Dark Ages,” and illuminate the medieval stories that have mostly escaped our modern gaze."]

Gershman, Samuel J. "On Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Writ Large (September 8, 2002) ["In 1962, American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn was struck by Aristotle’s beliefs about motion. Actually, he thought that those theories didn’t make any sense. But he also knew that Aristotle was one of the smartest philosophers of the ancient world. Kuhn realized that if Aristotle was stuck within his own way of seeing the world, then so are we. His ideas about scientific revolutions changed the way we perceive and teach science. Samuel J. Gershman is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His research focuses on environmental knowledge and adaptive behavior, memory, and computational neuroscience."]

Gillepsie, Michael Boyce. Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film. Duke University Press, 2016. ["In Film Blackness Michael Boyce Gillespie shifts the ways we think about black film, treating it not as a category, a genre, or strictly a representation of the black experience but as a visual negotiation between film as art and the discursivity of race. Gillespie challenges expectations that black film can or should represent the reality of black life or provide answers to social problems. Instead, he frames black film alongside literature, music, art, photography, and new media, treating it as an interdisciplinary form that enacts black visual and expressive culture. Gillespie discusses the racial grotesque in Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975), black performativity in Wendell B. Harris Jr.'s Chameleon Street (1989), blackness and noir in Bill Duke's Deep Cover (1992), and how place and desire impact blackness in Barry Jenkins's Medicine for Melancholy (2008). Considering how each film represents a distinct conception of the relationship between race and cinema, Gillespie recasts the idea of black film and poses new paradigms for genre, narrative, aesthetics, historiography, and intertextuality."]

Goh, Robbie B.H. Christopher Nolan: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Bloomsbury Academic, 2021. ["Christopher Nolan is the writer and director of Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, and also of arthouse films like Memento and Inception. Underlying his staggering commercial success however, is a darker sensibility that questions the veracity of human knowledge, the allure of appearance over reality and the latent disorder in contemporary society. This appreciation of the sinister owes a huge debt to philosophy and especially modern thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Derrida. Taking a thematic approach to Nolan's oeuvre, Robbie Goh examines how the director's postmodern inclinations manifest themselves in non-linearity, causal agnosticism, the threat of social anarchy and the frequent use of the mise en abyme, while running counter to these are narratives of heroism, moral responsibility and the dignity of human choice. For Goh, Nolan is a 'reluctant postmodernist'. His films reflect the cynicism of the modern world, but with their representation of heroic moral triumphs, they also resist it."]

Grant, Barry Keith, ed. The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film. 2nd ed. The University of Texas press, 2015. ["The Dread of Difference is a classic. Few film studies texts have been so widely read and so influential. It’s rarely on the shelf at my university library, so continuously does it circulate. Now this new edition expands the already comprehensive coverage of gender in the horror film with new essays on recent developments such as the Hostel series and torture porn. Informative and enlightening, this updated classic is an essential reference for fans and students of horror movies.”—Stephen Prince, editor of The Horror Film and author of Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality; “An impressive array of distinguished scholars . . . gazes deeply into the darkness and then forms a Dionysian chorus reaffirming that sexuality and the monstrous are indeed mated in many horror films.”—Choice;  “An extremely useful introduction to recent thinking about gender issues within this genre.”—Film Theory]

 Hannah-Jones, Nikole. "The Country We Have." Throughline (July 28, 2022) ["Is history always political? Who gets to decide? What happens when you challenge common narratives? In this episode, Throughline's Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei explore these questions with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist at the New York Times and the creator of the 1619 Project. Since the project launched in 2019, a majority of U.S. states have tried to ban teaching about race, racism or the 1619 Project specifically. And there has been a significant rise in the number of book challenges and bans. Yet many classrooms across the country have embraced the curriculum and resources that have spun out of the original project. It has pushed people on both sides of the political spectrum to ask how our framing of the past affects the present, to interrogate what we remember and don't remember as a society — and whether we need a shared historical narrative to move forward." If you would like to read more on the topic, here's two books: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, by Lerone Bennett, Jr.]

Keetley, Dawn, ed. Jordan Peele's Get Out: Political Horror. Ohio State University Press, 2020. ["Essays explore Get Out's cultural roots, including Shakespeare's Othello, the female gothic, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives, and the zombie, rural, suburban, and body-swap subgenres of the modern horror film. Essays make connections with Nat Turner, W.E.B. Du Bois, and James Baldwin"]

Like Stories of Old. "Don’t Look Up – A Problematic Metaphor For Climate Change?" (Posted on Youtube: January 26, 2022) [A video essay on Adam McKay’s film Don’t Look Up, includes discussion of the earlier films The Big Short and Vice, and a discussion of his innovative cinematic language.  Book & article sources: Bruno Latour - Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime; Timothy Morton - Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World; Ulrich Beck - Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity; Ulrich Beck - The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change is Transforming Our Concept of the World.] Book & article sources: Bruno Latour - Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime; Timothy Morton - Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World; Ulrich Beck - Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity; Ulrich Beck - The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change is Transforming Our Concept of the World.]

---. "The Fundamental Difference Between Stories and Reality." (Posted on Youtube: April 26, 2020) ["Why are stories so purposefully structured whereas our reality is so often messy and chaotic? Why do characters have clear transformative arcs when our identities and personal journeys are so much more complex than that? It's questions like these, and their implications that will be explored in this new series on stories versus reality. In this first episode, I’ll be examining the foundations of storytelling, and the fundamental difference between stories and reality."]

---. "In Search of the Distinctively Human: The Philosophy of Blade Runner 2049." (Posted on Youtube: Jan 29, 2018) [Uses Ernest Becker's The Birth and Death of Meaning and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.]

---. "Multiverses, Nihilism, and How it Feels to be Alive Right Now." (Posted on Youtube: July 31, 2022) ["An analysis of the metaphorical meanings of multiverse stories, and what they reflect about the burdens of modern existence."]

---. "Okja: Understanding the (Im)Morality of Animal Consumption." (Posted on Youtube: August 4, 2017) ["An analysis of Okja and the ideological driving force behind our animal consumption."]

---. "Stories as Identities: Who Are We Without Them?" (Posted on Youtube: 2020) ["Why are stories so purposefully structured whereas our reality is so often messy and chaotic? Why do characters have clear transformative arcs when our identities and personal journeys are so much more complex than that? It's questions like these, and their implications that will be explored in this new series on stories vs. reality. In this third and final episode, I examine the way we naturally experience the world, and where the sense of adventure comes from. I will the revisit the fundamental difference between stories and reality to explore how our experience clashes with the rules of storytelling, which leads into some deeper metaphysical questions on the nature of the universe as I will examine the possibility, and consequences of the existence of a grand cosmic story. Lastly, I will present a hopefully grounded conclusion to all this, one that doesn't necessarily resolve the conflicts we've discussed, but one that at least gives us a better way to deal with them."]

Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. The New Press, 2018. ["What started out as a survey of the twelve leading American history textbooks has ended up being what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an extremely convincing plea for truth in education.” In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen brings history alive in all its complexity and ambiguity. Beginning with pre-Columbian history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, the My Lai massacre, 9/11, and the Iraq War, Loewen offers an eye-opening critique of existing textbooks, and a wonderful retelling of American history as it should—and could—be taught to American students."]

Luckhurst, Roger. "Making Sense of The Weird and the Eerie." Los Angeles Review of Books (November 11, 2017) [On Mark Fisher's book The Weird and the Eerie: "What exactly are the Weird and the Eerie? In this new essay, Mark Fisher argues that some of the most haunting and anomalous fiction of the 20th century belongs to these two modes. The Weird and the Eerie are closely related but distinct modes, each possessing its own distinct properties. Both have often been associated with Horror, yet this emphasis overlooks the aching fascination that such texts can exercise. The Weird and the Eerie both fundamentally concern the outside and the unknown, which are not intrinsically horrifying, even if they are always unsettling. Perhaps a proper understanding of the human condition requires examination of liminal concepts such as the weird and the eerie. These two modes will be analysed with reference to the work of authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, H. G. Wells, M.R. James, Christopher Priest, Joan Lindsay, Nigel Kneale, Daphne Du Maurier, Alan Garner and Margaret Atwood, and films by Stanley Kubrick, Jonathan Glazer and Christoper Nolan."]

McBride, Joseph. The Whole Durn Human Comedy: Life According to the Coen Brothers. Anthem Press, 2022. ["A groundbreaking, incisive critical study of the Coen Bros., the quirky team of filmmaking brothers who delight in unsettling cinematic conventions and confounding audiences while raising disturbing questions about human nature."]

Meis, Morgan and J.M. Tyree. Wonder, Horror, Mystery: Letters on Cinema and Religion in Malick, Von Trier, and Kieślowski. Punctum Books, 2021. ["Wonder, Horror, Mystery is a dialogue between two friends, both notable arts critics, that takes the form of a series of letters about movies and religion. One of the friends, J.M. Tyree, is a film critic, creative writer, and agnostic, while the other, Morgan Meis, is a philosophy PhD, art critic, and practicing Catholic. The question of cinema is raised here in a spirit of friendly friction that binds the personal with the critical and the spiritual. What is film? What’s it for? What does it do? Why do we so intensely love or hate films that dare to broach the subjects of the divine and the diabolical? These questions stimulate further thoughts about life, meaning, philosophy, absurdity, friendship, tragedy, humor, death, and God. The letters focus on three filmmakers who challenged secular assumptions in the late 20th century and early 21st century through various modes of cinematic re-enchantment: Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier, and Krzysztof Kieślowski. The book works backwards in time, giving intensive analysis to Malick’s To The Wonder (2012), Von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), and Kieślowski’s Dekalog (1988), respectively, in each of the book’s three sections. Meis and Tyree discuss the filmmakers and films as well as related ideas about philosophy, theology, and film theory in an accessible but illuminating way. The discussion ranges from the shamelessly intellectual to the embarrassingly personal. Spoiler alert: No conclusions are reached either about God or the movies. Nonetheless, it is a fun ride."]

Montell, Amanda. Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism. Harper Collins, 2021. ["The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyzes the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power. What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . . Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day. Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish,” revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere."]

Napier, Susan Jolliffe. "Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art (Yale University Press, 2018)." New Books in Art (February 8, 2022) ["A thirtieth‑century toxic jungle, a bathhouse for tired gods, a red‑haired fish girl, and a furry woodland spirit—what do these have in common? They all spring from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki, one of the greatest living animators, known worldwide for films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Wind Rises. In Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art (Yale UP, 2018), Japanese culture and animation scholar Susan Napier explores the life and art of this extraordinary Japanese filmmaker to provide a definitive account of his oeuvre. Napier insightfully illuminates the multiple themes crisscrossing his work, from empowered women to environmental nightmares to utopian dreams, creating an unforgettable portrait of a man whose art challenged Hollywood dominance and ushered in a new chapter of global popular culture."]

Nguyen, Mai and Pauline Greenhill. "Uncanny sounds and the politics of wonder in Christian Petzold’s Undine." NECSUS (Spring 2022) ["In the story of Undine, a water sprite leaves her aquatic origins to marry a human and acquires a soul in the process. The narrative ends tragically when her lover betrays her and she is obliged to kill him according to the laws of the elemental spirits. Related to figures such as the sirens of Greek mythology, the Lorelei of Clemens Brentano and Heinrich Heine, Melusine in French folklore, and selkie narratives of Celtic and Norse oral traditions, the first writings on this nymph can be traced back to Swiss physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus. Popularised as a literary fairy tale in 19th century Germany by the Prussian writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Undine’s story has inspired numerous incarnations. For instance, it served as the source material for operas by E.T.A. Hoffmann (1812-1814) and others, a play by Jean Giraudoux (1938), and most famously Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale Den lille havfrue (‘The Little Mermaid,’ 1837). Films referencing ‘Undine’ date from the silent era and come from Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, and the US, as well as three from Germany: Rolf Thiele’s Undine 74 (1974), Eckhart Schmidt’s Undine (1992), and Christian Petzold’s Undine (2020) – our subject here. Movies based on or inspired by Andersen’s tale are of course much more common."]

Praeger, Joshua. "The Family Roe: An American Story (W.W. Norton, 2021)." New Books in American Studies (June 20, 2022) ["Despite her famous pseudonym, "Jane Roe," no one knows the truth about Norma McCorvey (1947-2017), whose unwanted pregnancy in 1969 opened a great fracture in American life. Journalist Joshua Prager spent hundreds of hours with Norma, discovered her personal papers--a previously unseen trove--and witnessed her final moments. The Family Roe: An American Story (W. W. Norton, 2021) presents her life in full. Propelled by the crosscurrents of sex and religion, gender and class, it is a life that tells the story of abortion in America. Prager begins that story on the banks of Louisiana's Atchafalaya River where Norma was born, and where unplanned pregnancies upended generations of her forebears. A pregnancy then upended Norma's life too, and the Dallas waitress became Jane Roe. Drawing on a decade of research, Prager reveals the woman behind the pseudonym, writing in novelistic detail of her unknown life from her time as a sex worker in Dallas, to her private thoughts on family and abortion, to her dealings with feminist and Christian leaders, to the three daughters she placed for adoption. Prager found those women, including the youngest--Baby Roe--now fifty years old. She shares her story in The Family Roe for the first time, from her tortured interactions with her birth mother, to her emotional first meeting with her sisters, to the burden that was uniquely hers from conception. The Family Roe abounds in such revelations--not only about Norma and her children but about the broader "family" connected to the case. Prager tells the stories of activists and bystanders alike whose lives intertwined with Roe. In particular, he introduces three figures as important as they are unknown: feminist lawyer Linda Coffee, who filed the original Texas lawsuit yet now lives in obscurity; Curtis Boyd, a former fundamentalist Christian, today a leading provider of third-trimester abortions; and Mildred Jefferson, the first black female Harvard Medical School graduate, who became a pro-life leader with great secrets. An epic work spanning fifty years of American history, The Family Roe will change the way you think about our enduring American divide: the right to choose or the right to life."]

Schambelan, Elizabeth. "Special Journey to Our Bottom Line: On Hazing and Counterinsurgency." N + 1 #34 (2022) ["Today, Fraternity Gang Rape remains an unsurpassed frat-guy ethnography. It’s also a truly shocking book, thanks to Penn’s very candid fraternity brothers, many of whom spoke at length to student interviewers trained by Sanday. In addition to calling the author’s raped student “an ignorant slut” and campus feminists “rug-munching dykes,” the guys say things like “no is meaningless” and “She was responsible for her condition, and that just leaves her wide open . . . so to speak.” Even more disturbing are those passages in which the men expound upon their worldview. “One of the few barriers left in this society is sexual barriers,” says one. “It’s cutting down [sic]. When you can strip somebody down, and get everything possible out of them, whether it’s sexual, sexual parts, sexual this and that, and just say, that’s where you are.” This has the ring of genuine sadism. Another interviewee defines a “nerdy” guy as someone who will not “allow any sexual needs to invade someone else’s rights.” My needs matter, your rights don’t: this, too, is a sentiment Sade would find relatable."]

Scott, James C. Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play. Princeton University Press, 2012. ["James Scott taught us what’s wrong with seeing like a state. Now, in his most accessible and personal book to date, the acclaimed social scientist makes the case for seeing like an anarchist. Inspired by the core anarchist faith in the possibilities of voluntary cooperation without hierarchy, Two Cheers for Anarchism is an engaging, high-spirited, and often very funny defense of an anarchist way of seeing—one that provides a unique and powerful perspective on everything from everyday social and political interactions to mass protests and revolutions. Through a wide-ranging series of memorable anecdotes and examples, the book describes an anarchist sensibility that celebrates the local knowledge, common sense, and creativity of ordinary people. The result is a kind of handbook on constructive anarchism that challenges us to radically reconsider the value of hierarchy in public and private life, from schools and workplaces to retirement homes and government itself. Beginning with what Scott calls “the law of anarchist calisthenics,” an argument for law-breaking inspired by an East German pedestrian crossing, each chapter opens with a story that captures an essential anarchist truth. In the course of telling these stories, Scott touches on a wide variety of subjects: public disorder and riots, desertion, poaching, vernacular knowledge, assembly-line production, globalization, the petty bourgeoisie, school testing, playgrounds, and the practice of historical explanation. Far from a dogmatic manifesto, Two Cheers for Anarchism celebrates the anarchist confidence in the inventiveness and judgment of people who are free to exercise their creative and moral capacities."]

Sinnerbrink, Robert. Terence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019. ["Many critics have approached Terrence Malick's work from a philosophical perspective, arguing that his films express philosophy through cinema. With their remarkable images of nature, poetic voiceovers, and meditative reflections, Malick's cinema certainly invites philosophical engagement. In Terrence Malick: Filmmaker and Philosopher, Robert Sinnerbrink takes a different approach, exploring Malick's work as a case of cinematic ethics: films that evoke varieties of ethical experience, encompassing existential, metaphysical, and religious perspectives. Malick's films are not reducible to a particular moral position or philosophical doctrine; rather, they solicit ethically significant forms of experience, encompassing anxiety and doubt, wonder and awe, to questioning and acknowledgment, through aesthetic engagement and poetic reflection. Drawing on a range of thinkers and approaches from Heidegger and Cavell, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, to phenomenology and moral psychology Sinnerbrink explores how Malick's films respond to the problem of nihilism the loss of conviction or belief in prevailing forms of value and meaning and the possibility of ethical transformation through cinema: from self-transformation in our relations with others to cultural transformation via our attitudes towards towards nature and the world. Sinnerbrink shows how Malick's later films, from The Tree of Life to Voyage of Time, provide unique opportunities to explore cinematic ethics in relation to the crisis of belief, the phenomenology of love, and film's potential to invite moral transformation."]

Sites, William. "Sun Ra's Chicago: Afrofuturism and the City (U Chicago Press, 2021)." New Books in Music (February 24, 2022) ["Poet and jazz band musician Sun Ra, born in 1914, is one of the most wildly prolific and unfailingly eccentric figures in the history of music. Renowned for extravagant performances in which his band “Arkestra” appeared in neo-Egyptian garb, this keyboardist and bandleader also espoused an interstellar cosmology and that the planet Saturn was his true home. In his book, Sun Ra’s Chicago: Afrofuturism and the City (University of Chicago Press, 2021), Dr. William Sites contextualizes this visionary musician in his home on earth—specifically in Chicago’s South Side, where from 1946 to 1961 Sun Ra lived and relaunched his career. The postwar South Side was a hotbed of unorthodox religious and cultural activism: Afrocentric philosophies flourished, storefront prophets sold “dream-book bibles,” and Elijah Muhammad was building the Nation of Islam. It was also an unruly musical crossroads where the man then still known as Sonny Blount drew from an array of intellectual and musical sources—from radical nationalism, revisionist Christianity, and science fiction to jazz, blues, Latin dance music, and pop exotica—all this to construct a philosophy and performance style that imagined a new identity and future for African Americans. Sun Ra’s Chicago shows that late twentieth-century Afrofuturism emerged from a deep, utopian engagement with the city—and that by excavating the postwar black experience of Sun Ra’s South Side milieu, we can come to see the possibilities of urban life in new ways. Dr. William Sites is Associate Professor in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago. His fields of interest include urban and community studies, political economy, social movements, immigration, race, culture, social theory, and historical methods."]

Slotkin, Richard. "American Disorder: The Origin of the Culture War."  Open Source (April 25, 2024)  [MB: I'm currently reading this book. Essential history to understand how stories/myths are used to create a sense of national identity (and who does and does not belong) and the current narratives being deployed in our acrimonious cultural wars. "The key battle taking place in this American crisis year of 2024 is happening in our heads, according to the master historian Richard Slotkin. He’s here to tell us all that we’re in a 40-year culture war and an identity crisis by now. It’s all about drawing on legendary figures like Daniel Boone and Frederick Douglass, Betsy Ross and Rosa Parks, Robert E. Lee and G.I. Joe for a composite self-portrait of the country. Richard Slotkin says we’re in a contest of origin stories, in search of a common national myth. His book is A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America. It is the Trump-Biden fight, of course, but with centuries of history bubbling under it."]

Susik, Abigail. "Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work (Manchester University Press, 2021)." New Books in Art (March 31, 2021) ["According to the definition offered by Tate on the occasion of the exhibition Surrealism Without Borders, Surrealism “aims to revolutionise human experience. It balances a rational vision of life with one that asserts the power of the unconscious and dreams.” Surrealism, therefore, produces images and artefacts that are rooted outside the real and that evade rational description. For many artists, however, the practice of Surrealist art took on an explicitly political and therefore practical dimensions. In Surrealist Sabotage and the War on Work (Manchester UP, 2021), art historian Abigail Susik argues that many Surrealists tried to transform the work of art into a form of unmanageable anti-work. Abigail Susik speaks with Pierre d’Alancaisez about what the politics of work meant to the early French Surrealists, the ambiguous labour practices of artists like Simone Breton, and the imagery of typewriters and sewing machines that permeates the work of artists such as Oscar Domínguez. She brings these questions into the present by engaging with the work of the Chicago Surrealists of the 1960s and 70s. Abigail Susik is Associate Professor of Art History at Willamette University and co-editor of Surrealism and film after 1945."]

Sweedler, Milo. "Art, activism, sales calls, and slave labor: Dialectics in Sorry to Bother You." Jump Cut #61 (Fall 2022) ["Boots Riley’s debut film, Sorry to Bother You (2018), is one of the great anti-capitalist films of the early twenty-first century. Although Riley characterizes the movie as “an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction,” which it is, the film also provides one of the most clear-sighted accounts of grassroots class struggle to appear in mainstream North American narrative cinema in decades (“Beautiful Clutter”). As witty, playful, and delightfully quirky as it is, Riley’s tale of an ethically compromised telemarketer, his artist-activist girlfriend, and the labor organizer that unionizes their workplace sheds brilliant light on the class struggle today. I analyze here two different kinds of dialectics that Riley uses in telling his story of class conflict in an alternate present-day Oakland, California. One the one hand, a narrative technique used repeatedly in the film is dialectical in the Ancient Greek sense of staging a debate between interlocutors holding different points of view. On the other hand, numerous scenes in the film set up a contradiction that the movie momentarily resolves, often in unexpected ways, before introducing a new element that complicates the resolved contradiction. If, as Karl Marx argued more than 150 years ago, “What constitutes dialectical movement is the coexistence of two contradictory sides, their conflict and their fusion,” Sorry to Bother You is dialectical in this way, too (Poverty of Philosophy 108). This article examines how these two dialectics shape Riley’s class-conscious film."]

Taibbi, Matt. "Orwell Was Right." TK News (March 13, 2022) ["From free speech to 'spheres of influence' to our passion for endless war, we've become the doublethinkers 1984 predicted."]

Taubin, Amy. "Free Range." Film Comment (July/August 2017) ["With Okja, Bong Joon Ho creates his most dramatically protean adventure yet—a work of interspecies friendship, galloping satire, and monstrous truths."]

Teitelbaum, Benjamin. "The Future of the Apocalyptic Right in the U.S. (Dey Street Books, 2020)." The Future of ... (February 22, 2022) ["How did Steve Bannon come to believe the strange things he believes? The influential, former Trump aid, began as a Democrat-supporting Naval officer with an interest in Buddhism and transcendental meditation. He is now an anti-globalist, sympathizer of “Traditionalists” who look forward to a cataclysmic moment which will lead to a golden age of elitist, hierarchical, spiritual rule promoting long-lost essential truths. He uses the pseudonym "Alec Guinness." And Bannon believes in something akin to “the force” in Star Wars. How did Bannon undergo this transformation? In this episode, Owen Bennett-Jones sits down with Benjamin Teitelbaum, author of War for Eternity: Inside Bannon's Far-Right Circle of Global Power Brokers (Dey Street Books, 2020) to find out how Bannon became Bannon."]

Thomä, Dieter. Troublemakers: A Philosophy of Puer Robustus. Polity Press, 2019. ["The political crises and upheavals of our age often originate from the periphery rather than the center of power. Figures like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning acted in ways that disrupted power, revealing truths that those in power wanted to keep hidden. They are thorns in the side of power, troublemakers in the eyes of the powerful, though their actions may be valuable and lead to positive changes. In this important new book, Dieter Thomä examines the crucial but often overlooked function of these figures on the margins of society, developing a philosophy of troublemakers from the seventeenth century to the present day. Thomä takes as his starting point Hobbes’s idea of the puer robustus (literally “stout boy”), meaning a figure who rebels against order and authority. While Hobbes saw the puer robustus as a threat, he also recognized the potential, in the right conditions, for figures to rise up and become agents of positive change. Building on this notion, Thomä provides a rich survey of intellectuals who have been inspired by this idea over the past 300 years, from Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Victor Hugo, Marx, and Freud to Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and Horkheimer, right up to the recent work of Badiou and Agamben. In doing so, he develops a typology of the puer robustus and a means by which we can evaluate and assess the troublemakers of our own times. Thomä shows that troublemakers are an inescapable part of modernity, for as soon as social and political boundaries are defined, there will always be figures challenging them from the margins. This book will be of great interest not only to students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences but to anyone seeking to understand the crucial impact of these liminal figures on our world today."]

Thomas, Ebony Elizabeth. The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games. New York University Press, 2020. ["Reveals the diversity crisis in children's and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination. Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children’s publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter. The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world. In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”"]

Vint, Sherryl. "Science Fiction (MIT Press 2021)."  New Books in Science, Technology, and Society (April 4, 2022) ["The world today seems to be slipping into a science fiction future. We have phones that speak to us, cars that drive themselves, and connected devices that communicate with each other in languages we don't understand. Depending the news of the day, we inhabit either a technological utopia or Brave New World nightmare. This volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge surveys the uses of science fiction. Sherryl Vint's Science Fiction (MIT Press, 2021) focuses on what is at the core of all definitions of science fiction: a vision of the world made otherwise and what possibilities might flow from such otherness."]

West, Steven. "Bruno Latour - We Have Never Been Modern." Philosophize This! #169 (August 20, 2022) [Bruno Latour's book We Have Never Been Modern: "With the rise of science, we moderns believe, the world changed irrevocably, separating us forever from our primitive, premodern ancestors. But if we were to let go of this fond conviction, Bruno Latour asks, what would the world look like? His book, an anthropology of science, shows us how much of modernity is actually a matter of faith. What does it mean to be modern? What difference does the scientific method make? The difference, Latour explains, is in our careful distinctions between nature and society, between human and thing, distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology, and phrenology, never made. But alongside this purifying practice that defines modernity, there exists another seemingly contrary one: the construction of systems that mix politics, science, technology, and nature. The ozone debate is such a hybrid, in Latour’s analysis, as are global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes. As these hybrids proliferate, the prospect of keeping nature and culture in their separate mental chambers becomes overwhelming—and rather than try, Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions, rethink the definition and constitution of modernity itself. His book offers a new explanation of science that finally recognizes the connections between nature and culture—and so, between our culture and others, past and present. Nothing short of a reworking of our mental landscape. We Have Never Been Modern blurs the boundaries among science, the humanities, and the social sciences to enhance understanding on all sides. A summation of the work of one of the most influential and provocative interpreters of science, it aims at saving what is good and valuable in modernity and replacing the rest with a broader, fairer, and finer sense of possibility."]

---. "The Creation of Meaning: Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death." Philosophize This! #162 (January 25, 2022) [On the anthropologist Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death: "... if you just, approached, the study, of human beings from a place of complete, Enlightenment era, scientific value neutrality…you might miss out on something very important about our existence and that is this:
That there seems to be a part…of whatever a Homo Sapien is…that is undeniably…religious. Now, remember back to the beginning of the Kierkegaard episode…use whatever language you want here…you don’t like the word religious… use the word anthropomorphic…use the word spiritual…use the word… human if you want…but Becker is going to say no matter what words you decide to use recognize the fact that there is a part of being a Homo Sapien… that cares about our actions being meaningful and counting for at least something. That is an impulse well documented in our religious traditions. Part of being a Homo Sapien, is the tendency to turn to oversimplified illusions that make us feel more comfortable. Well documented in religion. ... Or as Becker theorizes…maybe a totally value neutral scientific approach towards understanding human behavior ,has been sabotaging the entire process. Maybe what we need is something more like a humanistic science…something that can understand not just why people create the immortality projects that go on to do so much great stuff in the world…but also why they do the horrible things they do. Why they hurt people. Why they hate people. How it could be that people whose contributions to society help others and save lives…and how they could simultaneously be people who, “kill out of joy.”"]

---. "The Creation of Meaning - Escape from Evil." Philosophize This! #163 (March 2, 2022)  [Stephen Cave on Ernest Becker's Escape from Evil: "Becker was a very interesting anthropologist, working within a tradition of psychoanalysis, who tried to bring together a lot of different disciplines in the sciences and the arts, to create a kind of third culture in order to explain humanity. He thought the point of the human sciences – and indeed all science – was to stop us from being evil, and that evil resulted from our terror of death. We’re aware of our mortality, he argued, and would do anything to escape this prospect of death. Whatever we associate with death – with the challenge to our very existence – we think of as being evil. And if we have an idea of evil personified, it justifies any action. George W Bush called terrorists “evil doers”, and that seemed to legitimise everything, from Guantanamo to drone strikes. If something is defined as evil, we think it must be attacked at all costs. So the personification of death becomes the personification of evil. And in the name of combatting evil, we can do all sorts of terrible things – we do evil ourselves. Becker would see almost any ideological or religious context in these terms. Jihad is [an] example of people trying to cleanse the world for their own system, in order to legitimate their own beliefs in the promise of immortality. The Crusades were the same. Or take Nazism for example, which is less obvious than jihad but was the example more in the minds of those writing in the sixties and seventies. Nazism was also a system that promised immortality for being part of the German volk. In order to become immortal Germany had to become pure, and in order to become pure it had to destroy what was impure – and that was Jews, homosexuals and so on. This was a ritual act of cleansing, purging the evil as they saw it in order to create something pure."]

Wiggins, Steven A. "Nightmares with the Bible: The Good Book and Cinematic Demons (Horror and Scripture, 2020)." New Books in Biblical Studies (April 27, 2022) ["Nightmares with the Bible: The Good Book and Cinematic Demons (2021) published by Fortress Academic views demons through two lenses: that of western religion and that of cinema. Sketching out the long fear of demons in western history, including the Bible, Steve A. Wiggins moves on to analyze how popular movies inform our beliefs about demonic forces. Beginning with the idea of possession, he explores the portrayal of demons from ancient Mesopotamia and the biblical world (including in select extra-biblical texts), and then examines the portrayal of demons in popular horror franchises The Conjuring, The Amityville Horror, and Paranormal Activity. In the final chapter, Wiggins looks at movies that followed The Exorcist and offers new perspectives for viewing possession and exorcism. Written in non-technical language, this book is intended for anyone interested in how demons are perceived and how popular culture informs those perceptions."]

Wynter, Kevin. Critical Race Theory and Jordan Peele's Get Out. Bloomsbury, 2022. ["This book provides a concise introduction to critical race theory and shows how this theory can be used to interpret Jordan Peele's Get Out. It surveys recent developments in critical race studies and introduces key concepts that have helped shape the field such as Black masculinity, white privilege, the Black body, and miscegenation. The book's analysis of Get Out situates it within the context of the American horror film, illustrating how contemporary debates in critical race theory and approaches to the analysis of mainstream Hollywood cinema can illuminate each other. In this way, the book provides both an accessible reference guide to key terminology in critical race studies and film studies, while contributing new scholarship to both fields."]

Zipes, Jack. "Bambi Isn't About What You Think Its About." Ideas (December 15, 2021) ["Most of us think we know the story of Bambi—but do we? The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest (Princeton UP, 2022) is an all-new, illustrated translation of a literary classic that presents the story as it was meant to be told. For decades, readers’ images of Bambi have been shaped by the 1942 Walt Disney film—an idealized look at a fawn who represents nature’s innocence—which was based on a 1928 English translation of a novel by the Austrian Jewish writer Felix Salten. This masterful new translation gives contemporary readers a fresh perspective on this moving allegorical tale and provides important details about its creator. Originally published in 1923, Salten’s story is more somber than the adaptations that followed it. Life in the forest is dangerous and precarious, and Bambi learns important lessons about survival as he grows to become a strong, heroic stag. Jack Zipes’s introduction traces the history of the book’s reception and explores the tensions that Salten experienced in his own life—as a hunter who also loved animals, and as an Austrian Jew who sought acceptance in Viennese society even as he faced persecution. With captivating drawings by award-winning artist Alenka Sottler, The Original Bambi captures the emotional impact and rich meanings of a celebrated story."]


As a teacher, I'm not interested in just reproducing class after class of graduates who will get out, become successful, and take their obedient places in the slots that society has prepared for them. What we must do--whether we teach or write or make films--is educate a new generation to do this very modest thing: change the world. (15) ---Zinn, Howard. "Stories Hollywood Never Tells." The Sun #343 (July 2004): 12-15.

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