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Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 4:54 pm
by ncannon
Hopefully I'm approaching this response assignment correctly--my thoughts on this week's class, further information I would find helpful for next week and a response to the theory question:

I think the hesitance to begin a discussion which pervaded the first part of class stemmed in part from us having some trouble understanding how we should be applying the readings to both the the class's overarching themes and premises and the individual topics chosen for each week. Obviously you've made intentional groupings of the readings which fit within each week's micro-theme, and I felt like it might have helped us jump into a discussion more quickly had we begun class with a short conversation about what that week's topic was ("Fates of Critics and Creatives") and how we felt it fit into the class's larger themes, before addressing the individual texts. The wide scope of the class's many themes and approaches can seem a bit daunting (at least for me), and beginning with a kind of contextualization for angles of approach to the texts would help. While I realize there's certainly not time in class to do this with every text, I did enjoy our examination of the Egan book by going through it chapter by chapter, as particularly with a non-linear text, it can feel like so much of the book is left out of the conversation when we're just pulling out selected paragraphs to discuss instead of actually looking at it page by page.

As for next week, what would be helpful for me would be some sense of how you'd like us to think about applying the Schumpeter to the other readings for the course. It's a dense piece of economic thought, and it's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of his ideas, so your guidance in how you'd like us to apply his ideas would be really helpful--should we be focusing on the specific ways the ideas relate to the texts we're reading, or more broadly how they help explain the economic climate that has lead to the current state of the world? Or both? I realize next week's theme is "Innovation as Creative Destruction," so that concept of Schumpeter's is key, but knowing where and how to contextualize it in the broader scope of the class might be helpful.

And I would be very interested in a "brief history of theory" rundown!


Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2011 8:25 pm
by lindsaythomas
Hi all. I found the discussion on the "music industry death spiral" in its connection to Egan to be quite interesting last week, and I think Chris's explanation of that (non)cycle helped to get discussion going after our initial lag. I think there is more to say about the relationship between youth and youth culture and this process, especially in its production, seemingly into perpetuity, of youth itself. I also enjoyed our discussion about Bolano and I would have liked to spend more time discussing 2666 - especially the importance of mobility and Johns's hand - but I know we will have much more time for that in the weeks ahead. Finally, I hope we have time to discuss Sennett more, especially his relation to people like Nigel Thrift - The Craftsman seems to be in that vein.

I think as we get more comfortable with one another discussion will get easier, but it is always helpful for me, at least in the beginning stages of a class, to have some kind of short opening gambit to which to respond or with which to think about the texts for the week, whether it's posed by the professor or fellow students (or me). In other words, I enjoy a bit of a warmup to help focus my thought a bit.

I am fairly familiar with the history of literary theory since it was one of my exam fields and this is the sixth "theory" class I have taken here (many of these classes were not necessarily concerned with literary theory per se, though). However, I have not really thought of this history in connection to innovation before, which is one of the stated goals of the class. So I suppose I feel mostly neutral about this, although I would like to spend more time discussing the texts on innovation theory in its various applications, with which I am less familiar.

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:12 pm
by zhorton
Dear Class,

I enjoyed our session last week, though I'm a proponent of pushing these discussions further into theory territory. I agree that Chris' mapping of the music industry death cycle narrative was a helpful jumping-off point for further discussion. We could, potentially, have come back to this more explicitly and more often in a slightly more rigorous investigation of the narrative presented in A Visit From the Goon Squad and 2666. These questions were asked, but I'm not sure if we came up with any answers...

A great challenge in this seminar, which tackles a theoretical cluster (innovation) not normally explored by literary theorists, is articulating the link between literary texts, innovation literature, and more familiar literary and cultural theory. Energizing these three nodes simultaneously could lead to a virtuous circle, or it could devolve into three disparate discourses. Obviously the potential payoff here is huge, and the practical, discursive problem parallels the greater theoretical problem of integration. In this case, successfully posing the problem is already part of the solution: we belong to a knowledge-creation industry that has as its primary object of study other knowledge creation industries (of a more popular kind). All of these are fueled by innovation of one type or another, and thus theorizing innovation allows us not only to better understand the knowledge creation process in these domains (including our own), but also to articulate the links between these industries and our culture and society at large. Thus innovation theory should interface with political, social, and cultural theory. In other words, a truly interdisciplinary humanities. I'm excited to forge ahead with this project!


Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:53 am
by chancar2
The discussions on the two texts were quite stimulating. It would be great if we can spend more time on finding the interconnection between the texts and key ideas from Sennett’s book along with the notion of “creativity”. Say, what attitude should critics have towards literature, innovation or creativity. Our discussion on different themes was interesting, but it was quite fragmented and would help us a lot more if we can group them under certain themes or key issues.

One thing that would help to digest the reading materials would be a discussion on the position/nature of (literary) critics. What distinguish critics from common readers in general or in the texts? Does genre play any role in shaping what critics do or read?

Adding the history of literary theories to the class is a great idea, but like what Lindsay has mentioned above – we might need to figure out how to link history, technology and creativity together.

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:23 pm
by giuliagn
I enjoyed the analysis around Egan's book last week; however, I think it might have helped me to start with the Sennett as a kind of framework for delving into the Bolano and Egan novels. After that first awkward lull in the conversation, Chris did his music cycle spiel, which provided a focus for our discussion. A few other people have already said this, but I think that intro would be valuable in the future for jump starting the class.

I'm an undergrad so I apologize if this is redundant to everyone, but I think I would benefit from a lot more theory to give me a focus when reading these books. I find it difficult to even articulate what this class is about because the topics are so broad (mass creativity, innovation....), so a theoretical framework might nudge me in the right direction. And because you all have been doing this theory thing much longer than I have, I really enjoy hearing your perspectives. Particularly looking forward to them for the Schumpeter this week.....

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:47 pm
by rchenoweth
Like Nissa, I felt unsure of how to begin tying together the literature we read with the theory we covered as well as with the class’ goals as a whole. Mapping out the trajectory of the American music industry was a helpful way to put the characters of Egan’s “Goon Squad” into the context of the class, but for me things really started to come together when we looked at passages from the text itself. Initially I meant to write that I wished we could have spent more time on Bolano, but since Sennett only got a few minutes of attention and we’ll be returning to “2666” as we look at books 2-5, I believe we’ll have more opportunity in the future to discuss the characters and our first look at Santa Teresa.

Since this is my first class of this sort, I could also use some help putting the literature we read in the context of the theory we cover that relates to it. This should become easier for me as the quarter progresses, and may have been a result of the fact that we only had a few minutes to spare for Sennett at the end, so discussing his ideas in further depth in this week’s class (and starting future classes with a short introduction to the theory of the week) might help to solidify things for me. On that note, my background on literary theory is pretty minimal, so going over it briefly would be very helpful for me!

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:55 pm
by cnewf
Hi all, so sorry not to respond to this discussion but I didn't know it took place - I thought we'd get email notifications and just looked at the forum for the first time today.

The suggestions for an opening structure / discussion seem completely right to me.

As for the content of the themes, did the lecture-discussion about Schumpeter last week help?

For today, could you all write in to let me/us know where you actually are with the reading and which text, Bolano vs. Red Mars, you'd like to emphasize? Since we shorted Bolano last time, we could start with that. We could limit the Red Mars text so as to do a bit of depth with the time we have. Let me know.

Zach and I are going to talk about Laird on solar narratives. Zach has written reviews of solar books at If you have extra time (!) you might look at the review of the Travis Bradford book, but basically Zach and I will be doing that work. Zach you might mention a couple of main things you got out of writing those reviews, and I could talk about what I think is important for us about Laird. I'll add a few things to that and talk about "innovation" research as we've been conducting it.

To start the class: I would like to ask each of you to give one example of an author and discussion of "innovation" in a theory text that you've read and liked (anytime and anywhere in the past). The word innovation need not have been used.

My show and tell will be Steve Jobs's innovation powers according to People magazine.

Please don't worry about whether it's all coming together in your mind. we're in the phase of the course, at least as I see it, when some dots are getting connected but where basically we're getting issues out and plunking them down on the table.

Other thoughts and counter-suggestions are more than welcome - Chris

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:54 pm
by ncannon
For my part I'm up to date with the fiction for the week. While I'm very interested in discussing 2666, I know we'll have several more opportunities to concentrate on that text over the quarter, so personally I'd lean more towards focusing on Red Mars this week before we put that text aside (I'm particularly interested in looking at the ways the colonists succeed and the ways they fail to create a society different from Earth's).


Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:06 pm
by cnewf
thanks Nissa! others lmk - C

Re: Class Response (Week 2)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 4:14 pm
by giuliagn
Since we have a few more chances to discuss Bolano, it would be nice to talk a bit about Red Mars. Part Five from John's view was of particular interest to me. I'm up to date with both, but if we talk about Red Mars we could incorporate some more Sennett which we haven't had a lot of chance to talk about..