Posts Tagged ‘media’

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WAW for Occupied Campuses

posted: 11.30.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for BitsDoug

I don’t know exactly the place the UC Davis gassing might have in a writing-about-writing course, but I think it has one, and so I’m thinking about that moment as I write this post, four days after the event.

I’m thinking about it in the framework of Cory Doctorow’s young-adult novel Little Brother, which I’m also musing about finding a place for in my WAW courses. Its scene is a post-911 dystopia created by Department of Homeland Security uber-surveillance in the name of public safety. There are a number of chilling scenes, including a youth gathering being gassed for failing to disperse on command. (You can see why it came to mind.) Little Brother opens with the Bay Bridge being blown up by terrorists. The teenage protagonist is arrested because he was skipping school and was swept up by police in the chaos. Taken to a secret DHS detention facility, he refuses to divulge the password for his smart phone, which provokes a harsh reaction. His friends, also arrested, say, “’They really hated you… really had it in for you. Why?’”  They conclude, “It had been sheer vindictiveness….A mere punishment for denying their authority….They did it to get back at me for mouthing off.’” [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Writing about Writing
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What is a Reader?

posted: 7.14.11 by Andrea Lunsford

A few weeks ago, I participated in a panel at the 2011 summer meeting of the Association of Departments of English called “What Is a Reader.” It brought together scholars from several California universities who are part of a larger group studying and debating the future of reading. Many at the meeting expressed grave concerns, citing studies that show that young people are reading less and less. As with many debates, however, it all depends on your definitions. If by “reading,” we mean engaging classic works of literature, then yes, young people are reading less. But if by “reading” we mean engaging texts of all kinds—then it is clear that young people are reading more than ever before.

I began my remarks by offering a small taxonomy of ways of reading, drawn from a course I taught a year ago where we wrestled with defining reading. These ways include, I suggested, informational reading (what Louise Rosenblatt called “efferent” reading), that is reading to extract information. Other ways of reading we identified were ludic or playful reading, rhetorical reading that is aimed at action, aesthetic or hermeneutical or analytic reading, and participatory or creative reading. As far as I am concerned, all of these ways of reading are legitimate and important:  though we in English departments tend to emphasize the close reading of literary texts, I believe that other texts (student writing, let’s say) deserve the same kind of careful, artful “close” reading that characterizes the best literary criticism; I also believe that other ways of reading can be generative as well. [read more]

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Categories: Uncategorized
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Larry Crowne, Tom Hanks, and the Common Man

posted: 7.14.11 by Jack Solomon

My cue for today’s post comes from a blog post by Steven Zeitchick entitled “Fourth of July Puzzle: Are America and Tom Hanks Out of Step?” Zeitchick’s post concerned the opening weekend box-office failure of Hanks’s new movie Larry Crowne, a failure made all the more interesting by the fact that Julia Roberts also stars in the film. With such star power, the movie’s disappointment at the box office is particularly striking, and Zeitchick suggests, puzzling:

Larry Crowne, after all, had two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood history. Over the past quarter-century, Hanks and Roberts have accounted for nearly two dozen movies that grossed at least $100 million and defined the culture to boot, from Forrest Gump to Erin Brockovich, Cast Away to Pretty Woman. And yet here they were, together, struggling to out-open Hall Pass and Jumping the Broom.

Zeitchick’s solution to the puzzle is twofold: first, he observes, star power is waning in Hollywood and is no longer a certain ticket to cinematic success. That observation is worthy of a further semiotic analysis in itself, but it’s his second point that I want to pursue here: namely, that the kind of role that has made Hanks a superstar—“the regular guy we could all identify with”—is no longer in touch with the current American zeitgeist. Zeitchick then goes on to list the sort of protagonists that do seem to be in touch with the times these days, a list that includes “the kooky and stonerish (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis); the swashbuckling and sometimes morally ambiguous (Pirates of the Caribbean’s Depp); and, most commonly lately, the Adonis-like and reticent (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth).”

Larry Crowne is about not only an ordinary man but an all-too-common experience these days for ordinary Americans (a man struggling to cope with the loss of his job), which makes this movie all the more poignant. We could argue that a lot of people might not want to shell out the price of admission for a movie about the sort of thing they came to the theater to forget, but I think that there is more to it than that. [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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