S-One-Double-yous vs. Dubya’s SS

(Soundtrack: Public Enemy –Apocalypse ’91)

(When’s Marvel gonna give this superteam their own series, hunh? Maybe Warren Ellis could write it…)

Upon further review, and thanks to the timely publication of Locas (but why so motherfuckin’ expensive Fantagraphics? Sure it’s a big book, but why HARDCOVER? Don’t you want all of the young punks–and threadbare scholars–to own this masterwork? Or are you only interested in catering to nostalgic 40-something accountants who like to pose as “alternative”?), I’ve decided that my course next semester will play up the superhero-punk link (I managed to slip in the order for Jaime’s book just under the wire…now let’s hope the kids can shell out the 50 plus dollars!).

This is a theme that I’ve discussed often on this site, but I’m not sure how seriously people have taken it. I assure you that I take it very seriously–the proof of which will be the syllabus that I’m hard at work on as we speak! We’ll still be reading Animal Man, Watchmen, Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, Squadron Supreme, and Emerson, but I’m adding Locas, a lot of punk music by Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Team Dresch, the Minutemen, and Public Enemy (didn’t you know the PE were punks? sure they are!! Young people who don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from who want to change the world, gifted with the power to express themselves and a tiny bit of moral leverage, thanks to the gap between theory and practice in Liberal-Democracy that we generally call hypocrisy… that’s a punk! that’s also pretty much my definition of a superhero), and as many photocopies of punk zines as I can gather up on my own (I’m also very interested in the idea of setting things up so that we, as a class, can follow an ongoing webstrip or two throughout the semester–anyone got any suggestions? Again–I’ve got until December to make these decisions)… We will also, most definitely, be watching movies, and I think Meet John Doe is more important to my conception of the class than ever, but I’m still vacillating on some of the others (although Bamboozled–which I predict will emerge as Spike Lee’s masterpiece, when future scholars look back on his career–is now firmly entrenched on the scheduel too…)

Alright, time to correct some papers!

Go Sox!

Good Evening Friends!



  1. Dave, you are teaching the class that I have always wanted to take. Actually it doesn’t sound that different from my high school years, except I had to get the punk rock and comics on my own. I even did a paper on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead that featured photocopied pages from Animal Man and Watchmen and quotes from the Clash song “Know Your Rights.”

    Also, have you ever read Mike Sterling’s post about studying under Frank McConnell?

    Ian Brill

  2. Dave,

    I left some general thoughts on your class on the original post. Shorter version: making students read the intellectual sources, as well as the fiction which advances these sources’ ideas, makes for a richer class.


  3. your point is well-taken Dave, and thanks for responding! (Ian too!)

    In my defense, I must tell you that I put Emerson on the syllabus for exactly the reason you mention! Is there some reason why you’re resistant to my forcing him into the role? Frankly, I think Emerson is a far more radical thinker than Foucault! There will also be a few short readings in a coursepack–chapters from Von Clausewitz’s On War for sure; also some Derrida and Andrea Dworkin… (you can’t talk about Bikini Kill without bringing in Andrea Dworkin!)

    you may rest assured thatI won’t leave them stranded without any context!

    does this plan make sense to you?


  4. Nothing at all against Emerson; but to look at the issue solely via Emerson seems to me to cheat the students (not that you’re doing that, given the other source materials you mentioned). Give them the alternate viewpoint; make them articulate why one feels more correct. Teaching kids to attack text and interrogate arguments is, to me, what education is all about (leaving aside important stuff like, oh, learning to build bridges); and I’m not sure that can be taught unless students are given conflicting texts to resolve, and the freedome to go at them.


  5. Dave Intermittent wrote:

    Teaching kids to attack text and interrogate arguments is, to me, what education is all about (leaving aside important stuff like, oh, learning to build bridges); and I’m not sure that can be taught unless students are given conflicting texts to resolve, and the freedome to go at them.

    No question Dave–although (and please don’t think I’m being disingenuous here) I truly believe that Emerson is his own best critic! There’s no “doctrine” anywhere in Emerson, and even the most cursory survey of the major essays (Nature, “Experience”, “Circles”, “Self-Reliance”, “Politics”, “Fate”, “Power”, “The Poet”, “Napoleon”, “History”, etc.) will furnish students with an almost infinite variety of ways in which to attack the kinds of problems addressed by the narratives we’ll be reading. On a purely theoretical level, I think you can sum up the radical’s (and the superhero’s & the punk’s) imperative in one Emersonian fragment, from “Experience”–
    “the true romance which the world exists to realize, will be the transformation of genius into practical power.”

    Of course, the problem, as always, is how to realize this “transformation”, and the only way to really engage this problem is to look at concrete (narrative) situations!


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