Coole & Frost

New Materialisms

Summary: In New Materialism, Coole and Frost argue that material reality and objectivity needed to be studied in order to fully gauge the influence of material conditions on our constructions of reality.

Key terms:

  1. Materialism
  2. Ontological Reorientation
  3. Materialization
  4. Posthumanism
  5. New Biomaterialism

Materialism: Only matter exist. Coole and Frost are both examining and encouraging a revival of materialism that stresses the complexity and interconnectivity of matter, taken as a priority over human subjectivity.

Ontological Reorientation:  A shift in the the nature of the being of thing is treated, emphasizing matter over merely social processes.

Posthumanism: The study of being beyond human existence.

Passage Paraphrase:

“One could conclude, accordingly, that “matter becomes” rather than that matter is.” It is in these choreographies of becoming that we find cosmic forces assembling and disintegrating to forge more or less enduring patterns that may provisionally exhibit internally coherent, efficacious organizations: objects forming and emerging within relational fields, bodies composing their natural environment in ways that are corporeally meaningful for them, and subjectivities being constituted as open series of capacities or potencies that emerge hazardously and ambiguously within a multitude of organic and social processes” (10).

Matter is an interrelational process of emerging rather than a stagnant collection of static objects.

Discussion questions:

Question 1:  Cool, Frost, and Latour all propose a implementing a type of realism into the methods of critique. Is Latour’s Realist Attitude similar or different to Coole and Frost’s methodological realism?

Question 2: How does the new materialist analysis of power compare and contrast to Foucault’s concept of micro-physics of power in Discipline and Punish?



Why has the Critique Run out of Steam?


In Why has the Critique Run out of Steam?, Latour tests the validity and salience of critical scholarship (including his own) amidst what he considers an already shifted cultural climate in which deconstruction has diffused into conflicting facets. Latour proposes that in order    for critical scholarship to be revitalized, scholars must take on a “realist attitude” that deal with “matters of concern” rather than “matters of fact” (231-32).

Key terms:

  1. Instant Revisionism
  2. Realist Attitude
  3. Matters of Fact/Concern
  4. Fact/Fairy Position
  5. Critical Barbarity

Instant Revisionism: The tendency for critics to attempt to revise events in history as they unfold rather than waiting for facts to be established before revising them.

Realist Attitude:  An approach to critique that treats matters of social construction with empirical realism instead of deconstruction. For Latour this is one way to salvage critical scholarship from irrelevance.

Critical Barbarity: The threefold process of the critic choosing a discipline that they do not care for, critiquing the foundations of the said discipline with another discipline,  of which its tenets are taken for granted.

Passage Paraphrase:

“My question is thus: Can we devise another powerful descriptive tool that deals this time with

matters of concern and whose import then will no longer be to debunk but

to protect and to care, as Donna Haraway would put it? Is it really possible

to transform the critical urge in the ethos of someone who adds reality to

matters of fact and not subtract reality? To put it another way, what’s the

difference between deconstruction and constructivism?” (232)

Latour is questioning the possibility of a version of social constructivism that doesn’t aim to strip facts of their interpretations, but to add to the plural interpretations of those facts with the brunt of experience.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: When first describing his proposal of the Realist Attitude, Loutor mentions William James. What other parallels might their be with this chapter and American pragmatism/Neo-pragmatism?

Question 2: How might have rapid social media changed the influenced we critical theory?



Graphs, Maps, Trees


In Graphs, Maps, Trees, Moretti argues that in fields too large to closely read, literary facts should be quantified in abstract systems of knowledge such as graphs, maps and evolutionary theory in order to more holistically grasp the sum of the field.

Key terms:

  1. Normal Literature
  2. Historical Flow
  3. Temporary Structures
  4. The Limits of the Imaginable
  5. The Regularity of Generational Replacement

Historical Flow: The cyclical multiplicity of time the constitutes patterns in history.

Temporary Structures: Sites of short, observable regularity and repetition in literary history. Moretti cites genres as being akin to these temporary structures in that they are morphological arrangements that last in time, but always only for some time” (76).

The Limits of the Imaginable: The limits and influence on what is imaginable for literature in a given time frame.

Passage Paraphrase:

Similar data are beginning to emerge for France, Spain, the US, and it’s fascinating to see how researchers are convinced that they are all describing something unique (the gender shift, the elevation of the novel, the gentrification, the invention of high and low, the feminization, the sentimental education, the invasion . . .), whereas in all likelihood they are all observing the same comet that keeps crossing and recrossing the sky: the same literary cycle, where gender and genre are probably in synchrony with each other..”(89).

The data on gender and genre from France, Spain, and the US is being interpreted by researchers as being mutually exclusive phenomena, but really it is the same cycle pattern emerging in history.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: What other ways can fields of literature be quantified and abstracted?

Question 2: Is qualitative research ever really entirely independent from interpretations?



Resonance and Wonder


In Resonance and Wonder, Greenblatt presents a framework for New Historicism that operates contrary to the core claims of Historicism, asserting that the forces history are not deterministic outside of the human, that the historian must remain objective, and that the past should not be venerated. Greenblatt instead, purposes that we should approach the study of literature in history, as a result of an evolving, interconnected confluence of social factors.

Key terms:

  1. Cultural Artifacts
  2. New Historicism
  3. Historicism
  4. Resonance
  5. Wonder

Resonance:  An object’s ability to persist beyond its original context place in time and metaphorically represent the cultural context from which it was born.

Wonder:  An object’s ability to strike attentive curiosity in its viewers.

Cultural Artifacts: Human created artifacts that contain information about the cultural from which they originated. For Greenblatt, this definition extends to how the artifact is treated beyond its origin and throughout its existence.

Passage Paraphrase:

The new-historicist critics are interested in such cultural expressions as witchcraft accusations, medical manuals, or clothing, not as raw materials but as “cooked”-complex symbolic and material articulations of the imaginative and ideological structures of the society that produced them” (19).

New Historicists are concerned with how socially significant meanings shape cultural artifacts.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: How might the study of New Historicism change in the future, as cultural artifacts can now be digitally preserved and/or digitally born?

Question 2: Is it possible to deconstruct “resonance” and “wonder”?



Gender Trouble

Summary: In Gender Trouble, Butler argues that categories of gender that constructed in relation to the power of various institutions, are fundamentally problematic and ultimately unstable. Gender for Butler, is not a defining quality of a person, but rather a that gender is a problematic system of political, social, and cultural constructs that are performed.

Key terms:

  1. Trouble
  2. Compulsory Heterosexuality
  3. Phallocentrism
  4. Heterosexual Matrix
  5. Metaphysics of Substance

Trouble: The inevitable challenging of prevailing systems of thought. For butler the focus of trouble is on the problematic condition of gender. Butler notes that Sartre considered desires to be trouble.

Phallocentrism:  a condition of knowledge and language in society which is “pervasively masculine”.  Butler adopts the term Luce Irigaray, in which Irigaray uses the term in explaining that women are unrepresentable even as the object of the subject, because women occupy a linguistic blind spot within a predominantly masculine centered system of language.

Metaphysics of Substance:  is term is derived from a Nietzschean criticism of the philosophical categorical division between being and substance; categories which are an attempt to ontologically define reality. Originally the term was applied to critiquing the notion that a person cannot be substantively defined, but Butler has extended this critique to include sex and gender as also being unfit within the substantive category.

Passage Paraphrase:

The suggestion that feminism can seek wider representation for a subject that it itself constructs has the ironic consequence that feminist goals risk failure by refusing to take account of the constitutive powers of their own representational claims” (4).

When feminism attempts to define the feminine, to which it attempts to control the means of that definition, feminism risks not accounting for their own its own essential claims of what constitutes the feminine.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Beyond gender, what other normative and seemingly essential systems of categorization might be suspect to trouble?

Question 2:  How would Butler suggest we read Chapter 2 (Yunior writing in Lola’s P.O.V.) in Oscar Wao?



Can the Subaltern Speak?

Summary: In Can the Subaltern Speak?, Spivak questions the possibility that postcolonial might inevitably be co-opted by tacit, imperialist forces.

Key terms:

  1. Subaltern
  2. Postcolonialism
  3. Other as Subject
  4. Cultural Marxism
  5. Essentialism

Subaltern:  is a term borrowed from Gramsci that refers to all marginalized subjects that do not have access to cultural imperialism.

Other as Subject: The non-specialized, non-academic poulus from varying class backgrounds, who are not engaged scholarly with colonialism.

Essentialism: is the assumption that a person of a particular social (including gender), cultural or ethnic background, shares an implicit nature, i.e. essence, with other persons that inhabit the same categories.

Passage Paraphrase:

“For the (gender-unspecific) ‘true’ subaltern group, whose identity  is its difference, there is no unrepresentable subaltern subject that can know and speak itself; the intellectuals solution is not to abstain from representation” (2202).

Intellectuals rather attempt to represent the subaltern than let them remain silent, as the subaltern cannot truly represent themselves.

Discussion questions:

Question 1:  What risk the misrepresentation of the subaltern carry for Spivak?

Question 2: Are there characters in Oscar Wao which might be an attempt represent the subaltern and if so, would Diaz be speaking for them?



Principles of a World History of Literature

Summary: In Principles of a World History of Literature, Cassanova argues that literary value in world literatures is heavily influenced by the economics and cultural capital of Imperialist nations and their social institutions.

Key terms:

  1. Literariness
  2. Republic of Letters
  3. National Literary Capital
  4. Universality
  5. Polyglots

Literariness: The literary capital of a text, which is determined by economic and political forces of the world of letters.

National Literary Capital: The overall cultural capital of a particular nation’s literary production.

Universality: The assumed quality of what makes a text  ‘more literary’ works of literature. Cassanova thinks that universality is not actually universal, but is defined historically by imperialist nations.

Passage Paraphrase:

“The classics are a privilege of the oldest literary nations, which, in elevating their foundational texts to the status of timeless works of art, have defined their literary capital as nonnational and ahistorical — a definition that corresponds exactly to the definition that they have given literature itself” (15).

What is considered classical works of literature is determined by the historical prominence of those nations, which have been producing literature for a long time. These classic works of literature are considered timeless and ironically constitute the conditions for definition of literature itself for these nations.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Does the level of literacy throughout the world change the way that Republic of Letters operates?
Question 2: In what way does Diaz react against literary capital in Oscar Wao?





Summary: In Orientalism, Said argues that a discourse in Western intellectual work that perpetuates a false dichotomy between Orientalism and Occidentalism. This imperialistically rooted false dichotomy works hegemonically to reinforce presumptions by Westerners, of superiority towards Eastern cultures.

Key terms:

  1. Orientalism
  2. Occidentalism
  3. Discourse
  4. Hegemony
  5. Strategic Locations/Strategic Formations

Orientalism: A presumed, pervasive ideology of essential nature applied to Eastern cultures by Western Scholars. Said provides three initial definitions for Orientalism. First, Said explains that “Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles”(2). Second, Said broadly defines Orientalism as “a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident”(2).  For the third definition, Said defines “Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having au­thority over the Orient”(3)

Occidentalism: In contrast to Orientalism, represents self-ascribed attitudes of Western culture.

Hegemony: A term Said borrows from Gramsci that involves the dissemination of tacit ideology through cultural mediums.

Passage Paraphrase:

“My two fears are distortion and inaccuracy, or rather the kind of inaccuracy produced by too dogmatic a generality and too positivistic a localized focus. In trying to deal with these problems I have tried to deal with three main aspects of my own contemporary reality that seem to me to point the way out of the methodological or perspectival difficulties I have been discussing, difficulties that might force one, in the first instance, into writing a coarse polemic on so unacceptably general a level of description as not to be worth the effort, or in the second instance, into writing so detailed and atomistic a series of analyses as to lose all track of the general lines of force informing the field, giving it its special cogency. How then to recognize individuality and to reconcile it with its intelligent, and by no means passive or merely dictatorial, general and hegemonic context?” (8)

Said wants to avoid both overly polemical and dogmatic, as well as overly positivistic analyses of Orientalism. Rather he seeks to accurately represent the individual as influenced by broader cultural forced.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Said implies that Orientalism says more about Western culture than it does about the Orient. Is this similar to Derrida’s concept of differance?

Question 2: In what ways might ‘Oriental-izing’ of discourse be visible in current events, such as the Syrian refugee crisis?



How to Tame a Wild Tongue


In How to Tame a Wild Tongue, Anzaldua argues that in forming identity, chicanas experience tension between various native languages and the conflicting cultural expectations embedded in each. Thus, a fracture persists within the Chicana identity.

Key terms:

  1. Chicano Spanish
  2. Anglicisms/Pochismos
  3. Pachuco
  4. Chicanas/Chicanos
  5. Nosotros

Chicano Spanish:  A dialect of Spanish that takes elements abandoned in modern Spanish while also incorporating adapted words from English. Chicano Spanish is denigrated by not only by native speakers of Spanish and English respectively, but also, as Anzaldua notes is “internalized” as “illegitimate” Spanish by Chicanas who speak it.

Anglicisms/Pochismos:  Adaptations and appropriations of English into Spanish. Anzaldua notes Tex-Mex or Spanglish as an example.

Pachuco: An iconoclastic language that Anzaldua reports, originated from the “zoot suiters”.  It combines slang words from both English and Spanish that incomprehensible by the older generation and outsiders.

Passage Paraphrase:

We are a synergy of two cultures with various degrees of Mexicanness or Angloness. I have so internalized the borderland conflict that sometimes I feel like one cancels out the other and we are zero, nothing, no one.” (2954).

The clashing of the two cultural identities takes on a negative cultural space for chicana identity.

Discussion questions:

Question 1:  Is the tension between language and identity less prevalent for the children of immigrants from countries that are not as geographically close to the U.S. or does it manifest?
Question 2: In what way is the tension between identity and language expressed by the characters in Oscar Wao?



Playing in the Dark


In Playing in the Dark, Morrison argues that American Literature is written for an assumed white reader and that the ideological conception of Africanism plays an essential role in constructing whiteness within a race conscious American culture and society.

Key terms:

  1. Whiteness
  2. Sycophancy of White Identity
  3. Literary Imagination
  4. Americanness
  5. Africanism

Sycophancy of White Identity: The way in which white readers and writers appropriate Africanism in order to contenttemplate their condition by way of contrast.

Literary Imagination: The literary imagination for Morrison is the interpretive play between writer, reader, and the ability to clearly express ideas within the constraints of language.

Africanism: The abstract conception of blackness within the hegemonic white identity of American literature. For Morrison, Africanism is an essential component in defining the whiteness in America.

Passage Paraphrase:

Through the simple expedient of demonizing and reifying the range of color on a pallet, African Americanism makes it possible to say and not say, to inscribe and erase, to escape and engage, to act out and act on, to historicize and render timeless. It provides a way of contemplating chaos and civilization, desire and fear, and a mechanism for testing the problems and blessings of freedom” (7).

African Americanism allows the author measure the conditions of freedom by constructing multiple overarching and abstract dichotomies of the American experience.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: What would Morrison say about the possibility of a post-racial critique as mentioned in Birns? Would she considered it plausible, distant, or

Question 2: What does whiteness consist of moving into the 21st Century? Has it changed much since Morrison wrote Playing in the Dark or is it all too similar?


De Beauvoir

Myth and Reality

Summary: In Myth and Reality, De Beauvoir argues that history, objective reality, and truth is dominated by the male perspective and thus, preferences men over women. As a result, mythical identities are constructed around the conceptions of women and men that work to reinforce this masculine worldview.

Key terms:

  1. The Myth of Woman
  2. The Eternal Feminine
  3. patriarchate
  4. The Feminine Mystery
  5. Bad Faith
  6. Cogito

The Eternal Feminine: The essentialization of femininity as absolute and changeless. De Beauvoir reduces the conception of eternal femininity to a mythological structure of the feminine.

The Feminine Mystery: For De Beauvoir, femininity is a mystery to both man and woman, in that it does not essentially exist. The mystery of the feminine is however utilized as an excuse by men to disregard the behavior of women as irrational and incomprehensible.  Mystery itself becomes a way of othering/dehumanizing the woman to both men and women.

Bad Faith: The denial or refusal to affirm the relation between actions and truths. For De Beauvoir, the mystery of the woman has only ever been approached through bad faith.

Passage Paraphrase:

“[…]it is quite true that woman-like man-is a being rooted in nature; she is more enslaved to the species than is the male, her animality is more manifest; but in her as in him the given traits are taken on through the fact of existence, she belongs also to the human realm. To assimilate her to Nature is simply to act from prejudice (1409).”

The assimilation of woman with Nature is an act of othering by way of the assumption that she is more ruled by her human nature than is man; man dominates nature and thus, the woman.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: For De Beauvoir, mystery is an entrapment for femininity. Might there be any other instances in society and culture where mystery is used to ensnare a category?

Question 2: What way might De Beauvoir believe tropes like the Femme fatale could relate to the Myth of Woman?



Work, Immigration,Gender

Summary: In Work, Immigration,Gender, Lowe argues that     evidential testimony and literary texts work in tandem to forge solidarity for the multifaceted identities of immigrant women workers against transnational systems of oppression.

Key terms:

  1. the intersecting axes of exploitation
  2. neocolonialism
  3. transnational capitalism
  4. evidential narratives
  5. literary narratives

Neocolonialism: The economic influence on other nations by another.

Transnational Capitalism: The global reach of capitalism beyond that nation state that allows capitalist entities to operate outside of the labor regulations of many nation states.

Evidential Narratives: Factual accounts or real life testimony. Lowe thinks that evidential forms of narration work in tandem with literary forms to forge solidarity between exploited transnational workers of varying intersectional identities.

Passage Paraphrase:

“Immigration laws help to produce a racially segmented and gender-stratified labor force for capital’s needs, inasmuch as such laws seek to resolve these inequalities by deferring them in the promise of equality on the political terrain of representation. While the official narratives of immigrant inclusion propose to assimilate immigrants as citizens, the conditions of Asian immigrant women in the U.S. directly contradict these promises of incorporation, equal opportunity, and equal representation” (37).

Immigration laws work to promote transnational capitalist exploitation by promising conditions of equality to immigrants, which in turn, results in a steady flow of marginalized labor.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Is Lowe Critiquing Marxism when she references “general labor”?

Question 2: Does Diaz utilize both evidential and literal narratives in Oscar Wao?



Marxism and Literature

Summary: In Marxism and Literature, Williams argues that the categorical objectification of Marxist terminology stems from linguistic misinterpretations. These misinterpretations arise within the translations of German to English and through ideological influences of capitalist society.

Key terms:

  1. Superstructure
  2. Base
  3. Class Consciousness
  4. Determination
  5. Mediation

Base: The irreducible, “real”, “material production” of capitalist society that allows for the reductive analysis of the superstructure.

Overdetermination: The many determinate factors at play within a Marxist analysis (i.e. multiple economic, material, social, and political factors)

Mediation: The interaction between an individual’s will and the determinate social forces that influence structure and superstructure.

Passage Paraphrase:

“If the real world is material, it can indeed be seen in its constitutive forms, but these will not be metaphysical, and reflection will be necessary of the material reality. This can lead to the concept of ‘false’ or ‘distorted’ reflection, in which something (metaphysics, ‘ideology’) prevents true reflections” (95)

The physical world as material can be perceived directly, but reflective thought is necessary in formulating its existence. Reflective thought carries a potential for corrupted by way of ideology.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Did Diaz anticipate a marxist critique in Oscar Wao?

Question 2: What role might superstructures play in Oscar Wao?



Categories for a Materialist Criticism

Summary: In Categories for a Materialist Criticism, Eagleton argues that while Williams’ work is guilty of being humanistic and ideologically, it is good place to begin looking for a materialist aesthetic critique.  Williams’ literary criticism leaves space for a more systematic and detailed approach to a Marxist literary criticism of the literary mode of production and author ideology in relation to general ideology and modes of production.

Key terms:

  1. General Mode of Production
  2. Literary Mode of Production
  3. General Ideology
  4. Authorial Ideology
  5. Text

Literary Mode of Production: The mode of production of literature that consists of a dominant mode (e.g. writing, oral reciting, etc…) the persists within a specific socio-historical context. For Eagleton, a work of literature is marked by its time and place in history.  Eagleton explains that the dominant literary mode of a society that may shift synchronistically with history or asynchronistically against history.

General Ideology: The dominant mode by which hegemonic ideology is formed in a particular socio-historical context.

Authorial Ideology: The way in which an author’s biography is inserted into the greater structure of general ideology.

Passage Paraphrase:

The literary text is the product of a specific overdetermined conjuncture of the elements or formations set out schematically above. It is not, however a merely passive product. The text is so constituted by this conjecture as to actively determine its own determinants – an activity which is most apparent in its relation to ideology. It is those relations which we now go on to examine” (63)

Literary text is determined by the structure of the above elements (GI, AI, and AuI) Text however is not passively produced, but with affinity to ideology, takes an active role in its own determination.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: What is the dominant mode of literary production now and is it changing?

Question 2: What would Eagleton say about blogs?





In Panopticism, Foucault presents a framework for how power operates through surveillance, implementing disciplinary methods by both observing and controlling the behaviors individuals in society. Unaware if they are actually being watched or not, the subject internalizes the potential of     an observer who is always watching and disciplines their actions accordingly.

Key terms:

  1. Panopticon
  2. Discipline
  3. Power
  4. Surveillance
  5. Physics of Power

Panopticon: In the physical sense, the panopticon is an architectural layout first developed by Jeremy Bentham that involves various open cells arranged in circle around a central tower. From the central tower observers can see all of the cells, but through one way glass, the observed are unable to determine if they are being watched or not. Foucault runs with the allegory Bentham’s panopticon to expose how the theoretical concept of the panopticon is at play throughout society.

Discipline: Discipline is the physical outcome of power. For Foucault, there are two types of disciplines at play in panopticism: discipline-blockade and discipline-mechanism. Discipline-blockade which is a more direct, coercive style of actions. Discipline-mechanism in contrast, is what panopticism operates with and works to make exercises of power more accurate and efficient.

Physics of Power: How power operates through the individuals of a larger political body (e.g. state). Foucault distinguishes two types of physics of power involved in panoptics. The first is material and relies on physical presence to express power, while the other individualizes, records, and separates the populace.

Passage Paraphrase:

“On the whole, therefore, one can speak of the formation of a disciplinary society in this movement that stretches from the enclosed disciplines, a sort of social ‘quarantine’, to an indefinitely generalizable mechanism of ‘panopticism’. Not because the disciplinary modality of power has replaced all the others; but because it has infiltrated the others, sometimes undermining them, but serving as an intermediary between them, linking them together, extending them and above all making it possible to bring the effects of power to the most minute and distant elements. It assures an infinitesimal distribution of the power relations” (216).

Power in society works not only through close quartered physical divisions and controls, but also through broad sweeping surveillance that works to strengthen the reach of power relations.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: Is the bulk data collection technology of institutions like the NSA panoptic, post-panoptic, or something else?

Question 2: Does a narrator make use of panoptic power?


What is an Author?


In What is an Author?, Foucault questions the notion that an “author” as an individual, embodied person and that the text can help define the author. Instead, Foucault explores the paradox between speaking of the author as a physical/historical person versus speaking of their thoughts and ideas.

Key terms:

  1. Author Function
  2. Discourse
  3. Postructuralism
  4. Disappearance of the Author
  5. Postmodernism

Author Function: The role of the author in the text that shifts definitions and interpretations depending on his/her time and place and thus, is culturally embedded. The author function excludes certain texts from common, everyday discourse and requires specific type of treatment.

Discourse: The specialized use of language within a particular field, group, or discipline.

Disappearance of the Author: (Also known as the “death of the author”) Foucault believes that we have yet to fully cope cope with the disappearance of the author and that we should look to where the author is missing in order to fully comprehend her/his disappearance.

Passage Paraphrase:

“The third point concerning this “author-function” is that it is not formed spontaneously through the simple attribution of a discourse to an individual. It results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author. Undoubtedly, this construction is assigned a “realistic” dimension as we speak of an individual’s “profundity” or “creative” power, his intentions or the original inspiration manifested in writing. Nevertheless, these aspect of an individual, which we designate as an author (or which comprise an individual as an author), are projections, in terms always more or less psychological, of our way of handling texts: in the comparisons we make, the traits we extract as pertinent, the continuities we assign, or the exclusions we practice. In addition, all these operations vary according to the period and the form of discourse concerned. A “philosopher” and a “poet” are not constructed in the same manner; and the author of an eighteenth-century novel was formed differently from the modern novelist” (214-15).

While we may speak of a particular author as though they hold a singular, individual identity, the interpretations of what exactly an author is, shifts from era to era, destabilizing the ability to accurately place a fixed identity on the author.

Discussion questions:

Question 1: What role does the author function play in anonymously written works?

Question 2: Near the end of the paper, Foucault discusses the possibility of society without authors or an author function. What would an author-less world be like?



Summary Sentence or Two:

In Telling and Showing, Booth argues that though showing in modern narration tends to be valued more than telling, the author never truly disappears in a text; her/his presence remains discoverable through their judgments.

Key terms:

  1. Telling
  2. Showing
  3. Authorial Objectivity
  4. Reliability
  5. Durational Realism

Telling:  An authoritative style of narration that dictates the story from a “God’s eye” point of view. Of the sources that Booth thinks ‘tell’ more than ‘show’ , he cites the Book of Job in the Bible as being narrated and reminds us that it is narrated by God. This emphasizes the perceived objectivity of narrations that ‘tell’.

Showing: A more modern style of narration in which the author attempts to disappear within the text, providing seemingly objective descriptions rather than prescriptions. Booth thinks that ‘showing’ is overvalued in modern literature, because the author fails in his/her attempt to successfully disappear.

Durational Realism: A term Booth cites from Sartre that involves corresponding the time the reader takes to read a passage with the amount of time elapsed in the story. Booth concedes that Sartre is correct in claiming  that durational realism intentionally exposes the author in the text, but contends that suspending or adjusting duration, doesn’t betray the author either.

Passage Paraphrase:

For that matter, we must object to the reliable statements of any dramatized character, not just the author in his own voice, because the act narration as performed by even the most highly dramatized narrator is itself the author’s presentation of the prolonged “inside view” of a character (18).

The voice of characters within literature cannot be considered dependable, because their voice is ultimately mediated through the author.

Discussion questions:

Question 1:

Has the recent influx of forms of visual media (films, TV, youtube videos, etc.) influenced how the reader views the distinction between “showing” versus “telling” in narration?

Question 2:

If it were possible to have a truly objective narrator, would it even be desirable?



Summary Sentence or Two:

In Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbance, Jakobson argues that a deeper look into the two types of aphasia disorders (similarity and contiguity) expose the more general, underlying patterns existing throughout language of metaphor and metonymy.

Key terms:

  1. Aphasia
  2. Semiotics
  3. Similarity Disorders
  4. Contiguity Disorders
  5. Metalinguistics

Aphasia: The difficulty of hearing, speaking, reading, and/or writing language. Jakobson thinks that by studying disorders that impede only one aspect of language allows for a more scientific study of language by isolating the independent structural parts.
Similarity Disorders: When the person is still able to use combination when prompted, but is unable to use selectivity outside of a particular context.

Contiguity Disorders: The inability to order sentences grammatically.

Passage Paraphrase:

The bipolar structure of language (or other semiotic systems) and, in aphasia, the fixation on one of these poles to the exclusion of the other require systematic comparative study. The retention of either of these alternatives in the two types of aphasia must be confronted with the predominance of the same pole in certain styles, personal habits, current fashions, etc. A careful analysis and comparison of these phenomena with the whole syndrome of corresponding type of aphasia is an imperative task for joint research by experts in psychopathology, psychology, linguistics, poetics, and semiotics, the general science of signs.

Much can be gained in the study of human language by an interdisciplinary study of the way aphasia isolates one pole of language, while revealing the other.


Discussion questions:


Question 1:

Is Jakobson suggesting that the author subconsciously practices a temporary or suspended form aphasia in order to aid in the creative task of writing literature?


Question 2:

What would Jakobson say about Dadaist poetry? Is it influenced by metaphor, metonymy, or neither?



Matt Mckinley

ENG 7110

MLA Search Writeup


The MLA Search:

On the MLA bibliography database, I ran the title of Diaz’s novel (“The Brief Life of Oscar Wao”) as search terms. These search terms returned 60 plus results from the database that I was then able to scour for articles that contained unfamiliar theoretical terms. A fair number of the theoretical terms mentioned in the titles and abstracts of the articlessuch as performance, spectacle, poststructuralism, hyper-masculinity, or transnationalism, I have had at least some experience with. And even though, I’ll admit, I do not posses the degree of knowledge to be able to give a lecture on any of theses theoretical terms based solely on my previous experience alone, I wanted still to find a term that was more unfamiliar.

The Article:

The Article that I settled on was Conjectures on ‘Americanity’ and Junot Díaz’s ‘Fukú Americanus’ in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and was written by José David Saldívar. In the article, Saldivar applies the term ‘Americanity’, originally coined by the Sociologists Anibal Quijano and Immanuel Wallerstein, in comparison to the “Fuku Americanus” curse in Oscar Woa.


Through a Google search, I was able to find a link to Quijano and Wallerstein’s article Americanity as Concept: Or the Americas in the Modern World-System, which describes ‘Americanity’ as an “ideological overlay to the modern world-system”that was brought on simultaneously with the emergence of global capitalism, the development of the New World, and the removal of indigenous populations (550, 552). The ideology of Americanity for Quijano and Wallerstein, is what pervasively formed the template for economic, social, and cultural change throughout the modern world.