WRAC 130: American Radical Thought
Section 11: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:40pm to 2:30pm
Instructor: David Fiore
Office Number: Bessey-301
Office Hours: Tuesdays 3pm to 5pm (or by appointment)
The thespian’s mantra, “acting is reacting”, holds just as true in the political and philosophical arenas as it does upon the literal stage. This is an indispensable insight for students of American radicals to keep in mind–i.e. what are these individuals reacting to? Is it the “power structure” (often referred to as the “military industrial complex”)? The complacency of an electorate which votes for the status quo every 4 years, regardless of which party they support? Or some combination of the two? Are these things even separable? At the heart of this question lies a radical chiasmus that marks the thinking of any proponent of a better world: in order to change the social structure, it is necessary to change the people; and yet, it isn’t possible to change the people without changing the social structure.
In this course, we will examine a number of figures, in a variety of texts, dealing with precisely this problem, in its most extreme form–and take up their cross ourselves. There is very little likelihood that we will emerge from the ordeal with any definite answers. However, it is my hope that our gain in mutual understanding will make up, at least in part, for this almost certain disappointment. You will be responsible for generating a great deal of our reading material, and, in a very real sense, your most important research this semester will be the investigation of each others’ thought. This is ideal, because our primary objective in this course will be to develop your writing skills–and writing is reacting.
Ralph Waldo Emerson — Complete Writings
Mark Waid & Alex Ross — Kingdom Come
Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan, John Buscema, et al.— Squadron Supreme
Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen
Frank Miller — TheDark Knight Returns
Jaime Hernandez — Locas
Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, Tom Grumett, Paris Cullins, et al. — Animal Man
An assortment of on-line readings (including your own writings!)– see http://www.wrac.motime.com
Our course soundtrack (which I will distribute on the first day of class):
1. “Rebel Girl” — Bikini Kill & Joan Jett
2. “Terror Mad Visionary” — New Kingdom
3. “Freakathon” — Red Aunts
4. “Pure Massacre” — Silverchair
5. “Hate the Christian Right” — Team Dresch
6. “Killing in the Name” — Rage Against the Machine
7. “Call the Doctor” — Sleater-Kinney
8. “Have You Ever” — Offspring
9. “The Masses Are Asses” — L7
10. “By the Time I Get to Arizona” — Public Enemy
11. “DemiRep” — Bikini Kill & Joan Jett
12. “Shut ’em Down” — Public Enemy
13. “Co Pilot” — New Kingdom
14. “Spawn Again” — Silverchair
15. “Screwing Yer Courage” — Team Dresch
16. “I Like Fucking” — Bikini Kill
17. “LAPD” — Offspring
18. “Down Rodeo” — Rage Against the Machin e
19. “TGIF” — Le Tigre
20. “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” — Public Enemy
21. “Paradise Don’t Come Cheap” — New Kingdom
22. “Fight the Power” — Public Enemy
Spike Lee — Bamboozled
Frank Capra — Meet John Doe
Frank Borzage — Strange Cargo
Kimberly Peirce — Boys Don’t Cry
David Lynch — Mulholland Dr.
David Fincher — Fight Club
If I discover that you have used another person’s material without citing it, I will give you a zero for the assignment. No explanations will be accepted.
(I will hand out more specific instructions regarding each of these assignments in class as the semester progresses.)
1. A short introductory piece–what is your definition of “radicalism”? What does a radical commitment entail? (5% of grade)
2. “Policing the World”: discuss the ways in which Kingdom Come, Squadron Supreme and Watchmen address the connected problems of radical change/maintenance of order, with reference to Emerson, Von Clausewitz, Thomas Hobbes, and the opinions of your peers–1500 words (15% of grade)
3. Music Critique: discuss one or more of the songs/bands on the sountrack, with reference to the opinions of your peers and the links I will provide — 1000 words (10% of grade)
4. Film Critique: discuss one of our films, with reference to the opinions of your peers and the links I will provide-1000 words (10% of grade)
5. Long paper on one of our texts. Must include references to peer discussions and at least three outside sources. The choice of focus is up to you (to be decided upon in consultation with me) -2000 words (30% of grade)
6. Written Participation (20% of grade)–This course will not function unless you contribute your opinions to our discussion forum! The grade will be assessed on the following basis: a maximum of 13 points for each “letter” posted to our weekly letters page (of course you are welcome to post more than once a week!), 4 points for posts to film discussion lists (4 different films–although, again, follow-up posts are welcome and encouraged!), 3 points for posts to three separate song discussion lists. Posts must be at least 100 words in length and demonstrate some evidence of thought in action, in order to receive credit.
7. Class Participation (10% of grade)–to be assessed based upon your participation in general class discussions.
(excepting the first 4 sessions and classes devoted to film screenings)
12:40-1:05 Small group discussions, based upon the comments submitted to class forum–which I will print up and distribute (Tues); or progress on upcoming assignments–i.e. peer editing (Thurs)
1:05-1:30 I will deliver an interpretation of the day’s assigned reading, based upon references to specific moments in the text and insights gleaned from the larger philosophical, political, and aesthetic context.
1:40-2:30 Class discussion, which will grow, initially, out of your comments upon/quarrels with my interpretation/choice of contextual frame, and hopefully spread into a more general, non-Fiore-centric debate!
I will not accept any papers after the specified due dates.
I will be taking attendance. You have a right to miss 3 classes-any additional absences will result in the loss of 0.25 per absence off of your final grade. (i.e.: a student who earns a 3.5, but misses 5 classes, will receive a 3.0).
Jan 11th: Introductory lecture; formation of groups
Jan 13th: Emerson, Nature
Jan 18th: peer-edit assignment #1; Emerson “Self-Reliance”, “History”
Jan 20th: Emerson “Circles”, “Experience”; Assignment #1 due
(weekly discussion forum postings begin–due before 11am, each Tuesday)
Jan 25th: Kingdom Come and the Myth of the Hero
Jan 27th: movie screening: Meet John Doe
Feb 1st: Squadron Supreme #1-3
Feb 3rd: movie screening: Strange Cargo
Feb 8th: Squadron Supreme #4-9
Feb 10th: Squadron Supreme #10-12; discuss assignment #2 in groups
Feb 15th: Watchmen #1-3
Feb 17th: movie screening: Bamboozled
Feb 22nd: Watchmen # 4-6
Feb 24th: Watchmen # 7-9; discuss assignment #2 in groups
March 1st: Watchmen #10-12
March 3rd: movie screening: Fight Club; assignment #2 due
March 15th: Dark Knight Returns #1-2
March 17th: Dark Knight Returns #3-4; discuss assignment #3 in groups
March 22nd: Locas pages 7-245; assignment #3 due
March 24th: movie screening: Boys Don’t Cry
March 29th: Locas pages 246-542
March 31st: movie screening: Mulholland Dr.
April 5th: Locas pages 543-704
April 7th: Animal Man #1-4; discuss assignment #4
April 12th: Animal Man #5
April 14th: Animal Man #6-11, including Secret Origins #39; assignment #4 due
April 19th: Animal Man #12-17
April 21st: Animal Man #18-22; discuss assignment #5 in groups
April 26th: Animal Man #23-26
April 28th: full class peer-editing and general discussion of assignment #5
May 5th : class evaluations; assignment #5 due(this is our exam period)