Introduction

Introduction


>>I’m Cyrus Patell. This is American Literature
1, From the Beginnings to the Civil War, V 410230. And I will be your drill
Sargent for the term. I’m not kidding. This is boot camp for English
majors, you may have heard. And we are going to
read a lot of stuff, we’re going to be doing some
serious analytical writing, and by the end of the
term, with any luck, your literary scholar’s
chops will be a lot stronger than they are right now. So it is, I will say
right at the outset, historically speaking, it’s
been the kind of course where you put more effort
into it, you are rewarded. Perhaps more than in
someone else’s course. And you’re used to
getting a B plus, and you put more effort
in, identify expect you to get an A or an A minus. If you’re used to,
however, cruising and kind of getting a B, students like
that have tended to get Cs. So I’m not really supposed to
say something like if you have to cut a corner in a class
because, you know, life is busy and everything, many
things going on, cut it in somebody else’s class. So I didn’t actually say that. That’s actually a
literary device, and there will be a
special prize for anybody who e-mails me afterwards
and tells me what that literary device
was, that I just used. But in any case, I’m
serious about that. We — this is a course that
requires a lot from you. I’m not going to kid you, the reading load is
comparatively heavier, probably is slightly heavier
than Brit Lit 1 or Brit Lit 2. I have more expectations
of you, perhaps. But you will be rewarded
if you do the work. So if anybody would like to
run screaming out the door and take it in a different term
when somebody else is up here, now would be the time. No takers? All right, then let’s
get started. So it’s the first anniversary
of Barack Obama’s inauguration. So it seemed to be a moment
when it would make sense to talk about some of the
principles that he embodies. He recently received the
Nobel Prize for peace, the Nobel Peace Prize. And I think he deserved it,
and I think he deserved it because of the ways in which
he has set a particular agenda for how we should all conduct
ourselves as individuals, citizens, and indeed as nations. Right? And that way of
conducting ourselves is based on the idea of —
fundamentally, I think, of conversation and dialogue. And so that’s one of the things
that I want to be thinking about in the course of the term. This is what he said. We remain a young nation, but
in the words of scripture, the time has come to set
aside childish things, the time has come to
reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better
history carry forward that precious gift, that noble
idea passed on from generation to generation, the God-given
promise that all are equal, all are free, and
all deserve a chance to pursue their full
measure of happiness. Right? So one of the things I’m
going to want you to understand in the course of the term
is the tradition of rhetoric and writing that words
like this come out of. The invocation of
scripture, the invocation of a reference to
the Bible, right? The whole idea of
pursuing happiness. Obama is inserting
himself in the speech into a rhetorical tradition, and
it’s one I hope you will come to understand, because
it’s a rhetorical tradition that works not only
through sermons and then political speeches, but also deeply marks
what we might think of as the purely literary
tradition, what we tend to call American literature. And we’ll be talking
in the course of the hour what
those words American and literature should
be taken to mean. One of the ideas I
want to put out right on the table is the
idea of cosmopolitanism. Because I think that’s one
of the things that Obama and his approach to
politics and diplomacy, one of the things he embodies. Now can somebody tell me what
they think cosmopolitanism means, and if you’re in my Con
West [Assumed spelling] class, forgo for just a minute. Anybody else? What does cosmopolitanism means? It’s a word that we
sling around a lot in New York City,
and here at NYU. So what does it mean? Sure. [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Members of all nations. Okay, so let’s keep
that in mind. The idea of all nations. Yeah.>>Diversity.>>Diversity. Sure. Yeah.>>[Inaudible] citizen
of a the world.>>Being a citizen of the
world. Yes. That in fact is the
derivation of the term, cosmo politas, citizen
of the cosmos. So it’s beyond —
no, I didn’t pay him. But there’s nice
timing there, right? Okay, society idea of being a
citizen of the world as opposed to primarily the
citizen of a nation. So when we’re thinking about
nations, we’re thinking about it in a kind of plural sense. You might say that
cosmopolitanism arose, whether you believe it
arose among the Greeks, so say as a rejoiner to the idea
of the polis or the city-state. So if you were in
ancient Greece, perhaps your first identity
if you were a citizen was as a citizen of Sparta
or Athens. Maybe later on during the
Persian wars you thought of yourself as something
like a Greek. The stoic philosophers
and others who talked about cosmopolitanism wanted
to think in bigger terms. In the 18th century with the
rise of the nation-state, cosmopolitanism becomes
an alternative to the idea that your primary allegiance
is owed to the nation. Somebody who happens to
teach in a little school up town has written a little
bit about cosmopolitanism. And Bruce Robins [Assumed
spelling] suggests that cosmopolitanism
should be understood as a fundamental
devotion to the interests of humanity as a whole. That’s one way to
think about it. And he points out again that
cosmopolitanism has seemed to claim universality by
virtue of its independence, its detachments from the bonds,
commitments, and affiliations that constrain ordinary
nation-bound lives. Right? So nations in
this concept are things that might keep us apart. Right? Nations are borders,
boundaries, they keep people from one another, they
are separate identities. Cosmopolitanism breaks
down those boundaries, creates something like what we
might think of as universality. Joins all people
together, humanity. These are all the words that are
associated with cosmopolitanism. But it isn’t quite so simple. In the 18th century, and I
just put up Conte as an example of one of the thinkers
who’s working through some of these ideas. There are a number of
different ways proposed to be cosmopolitan. Perhaps if you are a
citizen of the world, there shouldn’t be any nations. Conte in his earlier pieces
starts to think about the idea of a world government that
would be beyond nations. By the time he gets to
the perpetual peace, he started thinking in
slightly different terms. Because more like what we just
mentioned earlier, all nations. Are the idea that the nation
is somehow still valuable. My colleague in sociology, [Inaudible] Calhoun has
made a powerful argument about the continuing usefulness
of the idea of the nation. But maybe that’s
not the last word. In other words, we need
to think of perhaps, Conte was suggesting, about
a federation of nations. In which — something
that’s distinctive about a national tradition
would be preserved, but something larger that could
bind people together would also be created. And I think that is a kind of
conceptual leap that starts to open the door for
more contemporary — by that I mean some of the
ways which people are thinking about cosmopolitanism today. Which move beyond simply
this notion of an alternative to the nation and
really start to take on this idea of universality. So David Holinger, who is
an intellectual historian, who teaches at Berkeley, has written a book called Post
Ethnic America, which he talks about multiculturalism
an cosmopolitanism. He writes that cosmopolitanism
shared with all varieties of universalism a profound
suspicion of enclosures, but it’s defined by
an additional element which is not essential
to universalism itself. And he calls this the
recognition, acceptance, and eager exploration
of diversity. Cosmopolitanism, Holinger
says, urges each individual and collective unit to absorb
as much varied experience as it can, while
retaining its capacity to advance it’s gains
effectively. For cosmopolitanism,
the diversity of human kind is a fact, for universalists it’s
a potential problem. Now what does that mean? Think of it this way. If a universal —
universalist thinker. You’re interested in
making generalizations about human kind, about
men and women, and the ways in which they share
certain attributes. Right? You might want to do
philosophy that’s talking about the soul, for
example, or about rights or something like that. Something that everyone shares. So you have to figure
out a way, conceptual, to get the beyond the
idea of difference. You need to figure out a
way to minimize difference, perhaps you might say you need to find a lower common
denominator, or at least a common
denominator. So difference is a problem
that you want to solve. So that then you can
make generalizations that apply to everybody. That’s the kind of
universalist practice. Cosmopolitans don’t think
of difference as a problem. Cosmopolitans think of it, I
would say, as an opportunity. So I’d go even beyond Holinger. Holinger suggests that
cosmopolitans see diversity as a fact, I’d say for the
actual — the true cosmopolitan, diversity, difference
are opportunities that we should embrace, not
problems that we need to solve. If you go to some foreign
country, go from New York, go to Seoul or Shanghai
or Abu Dhabi. You want it to be a little
different, don’t you? You don’t want — I mean, get
off at airport in Abu Dhabi, you’ll see a Starbuck’s
right away. That’s true. And — but then there will
be people dressed radically differently, ordering
at that Starbuck’s. That will be kind of a trivial
example of the interplay of what I would call and what — Anthony Appiah, a theorist of
cosmopolitanism called the idea of cosmopolitanism is
universality plus difference. Cosmopolitanism certainly
is a link to the idea of universality, right? As Robins has, quote, suggests. It’s about — it is about
how in part we are the same. But cosmopolitanism
is not afraid of difference in diversity. So in the slogan form that
[Inaudible] presents here, it’s universality
plus difference. We want Seoul as a city to
be different so that we have that kind of experience
of seeing new things, finding practices that are
other than — hearing stories, accounts of the world that
are different from our own. We grow as people,
whatever you want to say. There’s something about going
some place and finding it to be different that’s exciting. And yet if it’s completely
alien you wouldn’t be able to make that connection. You need some shared
basis to have that cosmopolitan experience. So you go and you find that
the people who live in Seoul, Korea, are all people too. Wow! And they have certain
ideas that you have at home. That’s our kind of shared basis. The universal thinker might
want to thing collapse of gulf of difference that exists
between New York and Seoul. Right? Stress the ways in which
those two cities [Inaudible] cities are the same. The cosmopolitan wants to maintain the gap
and then bridge it. So we maintain the
gap, we bridge it, or you might say we
have conversations across the boundaries of
difference without wanting to get rid of the
boundaries of difference. So that’s a crucial thing. Now one thing else
to say about this is that cosmopolitanism is not
the same as multiculturalism. You know, which has become a
byword in the U.S. academy, in the aftermath of what
we called the cultural wars in the mid 1980s. Multiculturalism is
a pretty good thing. It respects the diversity of different cultural
traditions, right? It’s been very important
in terms of allowing people who come from minority
traditions to feel that they have a voice
within U.S. culture. But multiculturalism has
ties less to universality or universalism than
it does to pluralism. Right? Separate, perhaps
separate but equal traditions. Now pluralism, as we’ll
come to understand, is a very important part of the
American intellectual tradition. In multiculturalism,
it tends to breakdown into something like this. If you’re a multiculturalist,
you recognize the dignity of, the importance of many
other cultural traditions. But you also say you
understand the pool of a cultural [Inaudible]
for the person who’s in it. So the logic would go
something like this. I like my culture
because it’s mine. You like your culture
because it’s yours. I respect your culture, because
I’m a good multiculturalist. I want you to respect
my culture. I’m not going say too much
about your culture, you know, I don’t walk in your shoes, I don’t know what
your culture is like. I feel like I should respect
those boundary difference s, live and let live,
separate but equally, the dignity of all
different cultural traditions. Now the cosmopolitans would say
that’s fine, as far as it goes. But there’s a problem. You’re a multiculturist,
and you want to respect a long-standing
cultural tradition. Okay, that’s good. That’s a good principle. But what if that cultural
tradition is less than — than what we want it to be. Let’s say there’s a
long-standing cultural tradition in another part of the world,
it’s had an unbroken culture for 2,000 years, it’s very well
established, it seems to work for the people who live there. It’s based on slavery. Do we want, as cosmopolitans, to
be able to say that’s just okay, you know, they’re different. Should respect their — do we want to have an idea
of human rights that we want to promote and say
you know what, human beings should
never be enslaved, that we should get over it. A multiculturalist would
have a hard time sticking to her principles, and
then making that argument. The cosmopolitan, on the other
hand, she might say look, what we need to do is engage
in a constructive conversation with that other culture. And you know what, we should
open up our own selves to being convinces that maybe
the way they do it is better. In other words, you need
to have deep conversations, conversations that put cherished
values up for grabs, all right? I think that is behind some of
the thinking of Barack Obama. We need to engage in
conversations, and not just in the sense that
we’re the teachers and we have a better
story to tell. The cosmopolitan realizes that
in a way, part of the importance of conversation comes
from the fact that as human beings,
we aren’t perfect. Right? And that it may well
be that other cultures, other people, have
better accounts of the world than we do. We ought to listen. We ought to be engaging in
these conversations in a way that makes us want — you know,
at least able to be convinced. Real conversations about
non trivial matters. All right? So to sum it up, cosmopolitanism
starts off as a critique of nationalism, ends up in
current theory as being a kind of critique of universalism. And I want to link
it to the words that Barack Obama has
tended to us in the past, which is the idea of
deliberative Democracy. I think what — he
goes through a series, a line of political theory that calls itself
deliberative Democracy theory. But if you were to read it you
would find that it has a lot in common with a kind of Bruce
Robins, Anthony Appiah strain of cosmopolitan thinking
that I’ve been out lining. And one final thing, one of the things that seems
to be linked to cosmopolitanism in the American mind is
the idea of urbanism. That the city is a place where cosmopolitan
interaction really happens. That leads to some
interesting ideas. Right? One of them
will be that we live in the paradigmatic
American city, perhaps. New York. So what
about New York. Is New York the most
American place in the country? Or is it the least American
place in the country? What you think about that
question will have something to do with your take on the
American ideological tradition. That ideological tradition
is one of the things that we’ll be talking
about this term. My colleague in history,
Tom Bender, has talked about the rise of
two great cultural mythologies. And this course will be taking
on one of those more deeply than the other to show how
an ideological tradition takes place. In part it takes place
through writing and later through what we call
the literary. And to how it makes
us think about an idea like the idea of
cosmopolitanism. So one of the things
that Bender suggests is that there’s two main stream
American cultural traditions. If people talk about an American
identity, they’re thinking about one of these two
things, he would say. One of them has to do
with Massachusetts, where I spent a lot of time
and used to like very much. [ Laughter ]>>Has to do with
Puritanism and sacred culture, and urban culture,
town-based culture. The Puritan origins
of the American self. That has been the story of
American literature one, for many, many years, and
it starting to be undone, you might say, in the last part
of the 20th century and now. So we’ll be talking about
that story and trying to understand what are the
strength of that account of American intellectual
history and also what some of its weaknesses are. There’s another story
that Bender points to, and that’s the kind
of Virginia story. We’ll be touching on that. But that suggests that the
real American identity comes out of — not towns,
but the country. The pastoral, not
sacred experience, but secular experience. Hector Saint John Revicur
[Assumed spelling] writes about the American farmer as the
kind of prototypical America. That’s a powerful tradition too. So you might think
of these two versions of the American self
probably intermingling. What Bender points out is they
seem like they’re different. But they both reject
the idea of difference. Neither, he says, can
give positive cultural or political value to
heterogeneity or conflict. Each in its own way
is xenophobic, and that distances both of
them from the conditions of modern life, especially
as represented by the historical
cosmopolitanism of New York and increasingly other
cities in the United States. Okay? So one of the
things we’re asking is to what extent does New
York, if it is indeed linked with cosmopolitanism,
offer a third possibility for an ideological tradition. One that perhaps hasn’t
been sufficiently taken up or that maybe remains
to be taken up. And then we’ll think
about what the relation of our literary tradition
is to all of these things. Will there be moments that
we will find in our survey of American literature from
the beginnings to the eve of the Civil War
that belong strongly to one tradition or the other. And other moments,
perhaps, that offer a kind of invitation to
cosmopolitanism. These are some of the issues that we’re going
to be taking up. One outgrowth of the idea of
cosmopolitanism that comes from Appiah’s work is the idea that cosmopolitan
traditions are not pure. All right, think about the
multiculturalist, for a second. Multiculturalist
says you know what, better have your departments
of African American studies, Asian American studies and
women’s studies, you know, because everybody wants — those
are good important stories, and we should keep
them separate, we should keep those departments
and maybe we don’t want to mix things up and keep
disciplinary boundaries. Cosmopolitan theorist
think that you know what, cultures don’t want
to remain pure. Cultures want to
mix and miscegenate and fertilize one another
and inseminate one another, and produce new forms, and
they’re very Whitmanian, as you’ll come to see. Appiah recruits the word
contamination for this. Cultures want to contaminate
one another, they want to mix. So one of the things we’ll
be working with is a model of culture that pre-supposes
that. That what culture is
about is about change. The cultural models
need to be dynamic. And yet at the same
time we will often find within any cultural formation
that there will be forces at work that want to create pure
forms or maintain pure forms or maintain traditions,
want to conserve the past. All right? And you might call these
the kind of cultural plays, or I don’t know what, French
people, French linguists wanted to maintain the French
language remains pure and free of any Americanisms, right? You can think of any number,
I’m sure, of cultural traditions in the world where certain
people are legislating about what their people
should be thinking and trying to keep outside influences
outside. Appiah would say this is not
the way cultures want to behave, if left to their own devices. They want to mix and miscegenate
and contaminate one another. So we’ll be working with a
model of culture that’s drawn from the neo-Marxist thinker
Raymond William, right? And one of the things
to say about, you know, Marxist literary criticism is
most Marxists today are probably no longer subscribing to
historical materialism in the same way that
they used to, or that most Marxist
culturism is not necessarily about the overthrow of
the capitalist system. That one of the things to say is that Marxism has had
a broad influence on the way contemporary literary
and studies conduct themselves, in part because Marxist
had certain insights into the way cultures work. One of those insights, I
think, comes from Williams. And it’s this model of culture, in almost any cultural
formation, as the interplay of three forms which he
refers to as dominant, residual, and emergent, okay? And that’s one of the things
that we’ll be wanting to test. Does the literary and cultural
history of the United States in the period that we’re
looking at seem to bear out this model of culture. Are there dominant
forms that give way or maybe have taken over, we
might say, from residual form. Right, so if we go
back to this, dominant, residual, and emergent. It’s pretty clear what
dominant is, right? It’s whatever we take
to be at the center of any cultural formation. Residual and emergent cultures. Now think of this as a
kind of gravidic center. These are on the periphery. But they’re in orbit
around that dominant center. In some sense you might say the
definition of what’s residual and what’s emergent absolutely
depends on the existence of a dominant culture,
because what these forms are about is conversation
with that dominant center or negotiation with it. So residual culture,
according to Williams, consists of those practices
that are based on the residue of some previous
formation but continue to play a role in the present. All right? So they’re part of the past,
but they’re not simply archaic. They have a powerful role
to play in the present. The present dominant
culture will often have to take these forms and
practices into account. Here’s an example from
later on in our course. Journal entry from
Ralph Waldo Emerson. He writes in all my lectures
I have taught one doctrine, namely the infinitude
of the private man. This, the people
accept readily enough. And even with loud
commendations, as long as I call the
lecture art or politics or literature or the household. But the moment I call it
religion they are shocked. Though it only be the
application of the same truth which they receive everywhere
else to a new class of facts. So one of the things you
might say about Emerson, he’s trying to push what we will
come to see as a new doctrine that grows out of the
enlightenment into the context of a larger biblical
culture that we’re starting to investigate next week. And he finds that in many
ways people that belong to that still biblical culture
are willing to take his ideas and go with them,
except when he gets to one particular
arena of thought. And there the residual
is still powerful. Right? Emerson, as a sign
of an emerging set of ideas that are becoming dominant
have to take them into account. Residual culture is
still powerful culture. Emergent, according to Williams, is on the other end
of the spectrum. If residual is linked to
the past emergent is linked to the future or the new, or
what’s new from the stand point of the dominant culture. So it’s about new meanings, he
says, new values, practices, relationships and kinds of relationships are
continually being created by emergent culture. But it’s important to
understand that both of these forms exist only
in relation to the dominant. You need to understand
the canonical tradition, in other words, to understand
the challenges from the past, from the present, and the future
of that canonical tradition. So that’s part of
what we’re up to. We’re trying to understand how
something called an American canon was created, and we’re
also at the same time trying to link about what
the limitations of that canon-making
process are. Okay, so there’s a lot of things
that I think will be of use to you as you go on in your
career as English majors. Okay, first concept
I want to talk about for the moment is
something called the horizon of expectations. So I’ll begin by
asking you to tell me where you think the
meaning of a text is. If a text has a meaning,
where is it? Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>How you want to
relate to the text. Okay. That’s a start. Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Good. So the comment
was that
it’s a conversation or collision between the text and ideas
that surround the text, and the reader and ideas
that surround the reader. I think that’s good,
that’s a good way to start thinking about it. The horizon of expectations
comes from a branch of critical theory that we
might call the aesthetics of reception, or broadly
speaking, reception theory. In the olden days we used
to think that the meaning of a literary text was
in the text, right? So if you in the earlier
part of the 20th century, you would say okay,
I’m going read a poem, and basically everything
I need to know about the poem is
pretty much in the poem. We called this the
new criticism. It was a theory of the way
great works of art worked; they were self-contained. And the best ones were
complicated and had symbols and you know, they were really
— they gave you different kinds of readings that you can have, but they were still
self-contained. Biography, that was
kind of extraneous. Literary history, what we
tend to call this course, that was all extra
stuff, context. Text was the most
important thing. And that was — you can
imagine, that was great for high school teachers
of English, right? Didn’t really have to
prepare, all you have to do is find a good poem,
bring it in, and you can talk for your 40 minutes about this
poem, it works pretty well. But in part, I think due to a
number of critical traditions and in part due to the, you
know, certainly the advances that come around because
of multi culturalism, we’ve been to see that the
new criticism was underwritten by what we might call an
interpretive community. A bunch of readers who
share the same ideas about how the text work,
what’s important about text. You know, a set of
shared values. What happens if you’re
a reader who comes from a radically
different tradition and doesn’t share those values. Is that text going to mean
the same thing to you? Probably not. Is the meaning that
you’re going to take out of that text invalid? Today we would say probably not. We would say that every
text, when it’s created, greets what we might call
a horizon of expectations. That horizon of expectations
is the sum total — you might say the cultural
and social milieu around — in which a text is coded
and in which it is received. We would also say that the
author probably has some sense of this. May not — certainly
wouldn’t theorize it or think about it openly in
the [Inaudible] but they have a sense of
what they might call writing for an audience, perhaps. The sense that the audience
might expect things. And that is part of the
horizon of expectations. The horizon of expectations
is the sum total of the historical moment,
the moment in the history of artistic forms, all right? And it’s personal too, the reader’s own personal
experience of reading. All of this will go into
the horizon of expectations that the reader will have when
he or she greets the text. And an author intuits that there
are going to be these horizons of expectations out
there, right? So you might say the fact that
you’re going to read Moby Dick, is going to be — and when
you read Moby Dick, for you, the meaning of Moby Dick is
going to be profoundly effected by the fact that you
know it’s a novel. Well, not expected
to do the same things that a lyric poem
or epic would do. Going to be effected by the fact that you know it’s
a classic novel. Right? A classic, oh! So that’s going to
give you a certain set of attitudes towards it. Okay, we’re going to
have to work on those. That’s important too, right? It’s going to be effected by
the fact that you’re reading it under the pressure of a course
and knowing that you’re going to have to be examined on it,
and maybe even write on it. All of these things
will effect the meaning of Moby Dick for you. And if you come back
to it in twenty years, as I hope you will, it will
probably mean something different to you then, because
you will have had twenty years of life experience
and reading experience between those two
encounters with the text. All of this is part of the
horizon of expectations. And it also has to do — something with the notion
of genre, as I suggested. It’s a novel, not a poem. And a notion of particular forms
that are current or not current at the moment the author writes. Author can choose to have
a number of relations to the horizon of expectations. You could say you know
what, I want to sell a book. So I’m going to give the
audience exactly what they want. Dan Brown’s thinking to himself
they bought my other books, they’ll buy this one. I’ll use the same device. I’ll have a character who’s
actually another character, but I won’t tell them until about two-thirds
of the way through. How many of you have
read Dan Brown? I read all of Dan Brown. I wanted to figure out,
you know, I’m like, poor underpaid English
professor, how do you do it. This guy taught at [Inaudible]
he’s an English professor. How does he do it. I resisted The Lost
Symbol, I must say. Then I finally read it. Not as good as the DaVinci Code. How many of you have
read Angels and Demons? Okay, and the DaVinci Code? Same book, right? I mean — literally,
even the same — [Inaudible] a 2 and
he’s underneath. When I read Angels and
Demons, I went oh my God, he wrote this book, not
enough people read it, so he rewrote it again with a
slightly different template. And I guess nobody noticed. Anyway, it’s fine,
it’s all fine. But you see, that’s what
we call genre fiction. In a sense, he’s
making his own genre. Audiences, apparently, are
not put off by the fact that it’s the same formula
over and over again. That’s one way to approach
the horizon of expectations. And most genre fiction, as we
call it, detective fiction, some science fiction,
other things. They just cue to
those conventions. There are conventions for
the literary novel too. The literary novel is supposed
to be complicated, or you know, formally challenging
or whatever. You cue to those too, if you’re
going to do a literary novel. So you’re not Dan Brown,
you’re I don’t know, pick your favorite
literary novelist, Philip Roth [Assumed spelling],
you’re going to be writing in a way that signals that
what you’re doing is the literary novel. In the case of Roth,
you’re also going to be writing knowing your
audience presumably has a set of expectations that are based
on what you’ve written before. You could decide,
if you’re Roth, to contradict those things, to do something radically
different. Or you could decide not to. Sometimes a horizonal
change takes population well after the production of a
text or the writing of a text. And that’s, you’ll see, is
the case with Moby Dick. Moby Dick is written in the
middle of the 19th century. And it’s laden with
clearly literary ambitions. You’ll see in sections
this week why. Melville clearly signaling that this is not the
novel as usually. This is not a personal
narrative of the sea, like I used to write, as usual. This is something different. Yeah, it was so different
that the audiences went ah, and didn’t want to read it. Or only a few people
understood it. Melville got a little bumped
out, wrote another book in which we actually took time
out in this book called Pierre, to excoriate the
literary publishing world and then got headlines
from reviewers, Herman Melville, crazy. And basically his writing career
was, you know, in the tubes. It — for the most part
of Melville’s life, he gave up writing, he became
a clerk in the custom house and for a long time lived in
New York not writing fiction, writing a little bit of poetry. And when he died
he was forgotten. People — it was, you
know, the old joke. People were surprised
to read his obituary, because they thought
he was dead already. I mean, what happened
to the Herman Melville. In the 1920s, something happens. One piece is found and
published posthumously, the wonderful short
piece Billy Bud. People start looking
at Melville once again. There’s something that begins to be called the Melville
revival that takes place. People start reading
Moby Dick again. And in the after math of World
War II when literary critics and other scholars are trying
to prove that the United States, which is now a global
power, has a literature, and indigenous literature
that stands up there with the big boys and girls. Just as good as the
Germans and the French and the English, right? They look around. They’re doing this in the
aftermath of modernism, which taught us texts should
be hard if they’re going to be literary, right? Joyce. Right? And they say guess what, we have
a modernist novel before there was even modernism, and that
novel is called Moby Dick. And Moby Dick got
set at the center of the American canon
as a result of that. Its meaning changed. It has a horizonal shift
which had nothing to do with the writer, you might
say, and had everything to do with a very specialized
set of readers who could then convey
their understandings and their readings to more
standardized sets of readers and all that is in the
genealogy of this moment, as I’m standing here talking
to you about Moby Dick. Okay? So that’s one
of the things that I want you to understand. The meaning of a text is part of
a negotiation, or to use a term that we’ve brought up
earlier, a conversation. And it’s important to
remember, therefore, that the meaning is
— there are limits. Moby Dick is not a book
about a pink elephant. And if you wrote Moby Dick is
a book about a pink elephant, that would actually be wrong. It would be one of
these rare occasions when people reading a paper on literary criticism
could say that’s wrong. So you’re bound by
certain conventions of the language, right? But within that,
there’s a lot of play. And we might say that
one of the things that — take this as a hypothesis. One of the things that makes a
great text great is it allows for that kind of
free play of meaning. It leaves space for the reader
to create meanings of that text. We’ll test that as the —
as the course continues. All right, just to recap, F.
O. Matthiessen was the guy who wrote a big book that’s
called American Renaissance. It came out in the middle of
the 1940s, and that really helps to establish the center
of the U.S. canon, which is still Emerson, Thoreau,
Whitman, Hawthorne, Melville, and then we would add to that
Dickinson, who Matthiessen wrote about in a separate
place, and sometimes Poe. And there are some others. Right? That’s still
thought to be the center of the American canon. What you’ll get to do is have
experience with those writers and you’ll decide if in
fact that canon is trumped up for all kind of reasons we
can’t really respect any more, or if there’s something
that remains valuable within that tradition. For Matthiessen,
it was a tradition that embodied the
values of Democracy. And that’s what made it valuable
and what made it American. We can test those as well. That book, and therefore
the name of that period, were American Renaissance. Okay, let’s see. Let’s talk about — well,
let’s talk about that first. Literature. What is literature. Everybody took literary — who
took literary interpretation. Okay, good. So you all remember everything
you all learned there, right? And what is literature,
didn’t they tell you? What did they tell you it was? Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Any written words. Dan Brown is literature. The New York Times
is literature. Your syllabus is literature. That might be a little too
far on the promiscuous side, but we’ll keep that
as a possibility. What else? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Okay, so I’ll stop you. So the — it’s being suggested that there’s capital
L literature, lower case L literature, and
that within the literary, there’s actually a
hierarchy of literary forms. What does that do with other
kinds of writing, then? Is Dan Brown bad literature
or lower case literature, or is literature going to
have to be just L with a — capital L literature, does
that mean it’s associated with some big tradition? All right, well keep that
as a possibility, the L, the capital lower case thing,
and see if we want to keep that. Yeah?>>I would say literature
often [Inaudible] of the human condition.>>Literature conveys
aspects
of the human condition. Doesn’t history-writing
or sociology or philosophy or religion — I didn’t say — okay, one of the things you
might say about that is yeah, but therefore it has things in
common with all those things. So that’s fine. Except we tend to think
of literature as separate or doing something that’s
different from those. Or let’s put it another way. In the course of the years
that we’re going to be looking through there are people who
are going to — writers — who are going to have a
vested interest in trying to define the literary as
not like those other things. So it’s going, you might say
it’s going to convey aspects of the human condition in a
particular way or maybe get at aspects those other stupid
disciplines don’t get at. Okay, we can work with that. Anything else? Yeah.>>Maybe it’s kind of
like the umbrella term for [Inaudible] encompasses
a lot of different [Inaudible]
I guess.>>Okay. We would –>>– the way that we
speak about a classic, the way that we would — [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Good. That’s good. There are many different sub
genres, and there’s the idea of the classic built
into literary. But let’s work on this. What’s the difference
between literature, if we want to say
there’s a difference, what’s the difference between
literature and all writing? I suggest that we might want
to make that distinction. So how do you draw
that distinction and who is going to draw it. Yeah? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Would it can be okay? I don’t know, with me, you mean? I’m happy to talk. Artistic aspirations. Well that goes back to the
horizon of expectations, right? We might say that the literary
has a set of aspirations that we would call the literary. People are always — why
are we worried about this? Because there’s something
that we’ve all heard about called the
intentional fallacy. You’ve probably all
heard of this. How many people have heard
of the intentional fallacy? Anybody ever say that to you? Intentional fallacy was part of
that whole new criticism thing. Basically boils down to this. You shouldn’t judge the
greatness or success of a literary work depending
on its author’s intentions. In part because you can’t always
know the author’s intentions, and also because the authors
aren’t completely in control of his or her intentions, right? You don’t even need to go
to, say, freudian psychology or psychoanalysis to
suggest that there are going to be things that occur
in the act of writing that aren’t exactly planned, and
only a certain kind of writer who is absolutely in control
of absolutely in control of every single thing that
goes on when he or she sits down a particular
configuration of words. All right? On the other hand, we don’t want
to discount intention totally. There’s intention when you
pick up something that looks like a novel, you say okay,
they intended to write a novel. There’s something to
be done with that. Intention lies — and we might
say we can look and say hmm, we know enough to say
that that person decided to write a literary novel. Okay, great. Does that mean it’s literature? You know, person X, Dan
Brown might have said I want to write a literary novel. And maybe he thinks he did. Would we agree? Some of you might
agree, it’s okay. How about this. Is Stephen King —
Stephen King novel, your average Stephen King novel
literature or not literature? How many say literature? Oh, come on. More than you think — how
many of you say not literature. Oh, come on, no wishy-washy. Start again. Literature. Hands up. All right,
that’s better. Better showing. Not literature. Hands up. Third category, I
didn’t tell you there was going to be a third category. Literature in some
books but not others. Bag of Bones, that’s
literature, Scribners, Carrie, that was back in the great days. King, by the way, is a
remarkably good writer, I think. And if you want to
learn about writing, you should read his
book about writing, especially his screed
against adverbs. It’s brilliant. In fact, I think I’ll post it to
Blackboard so you can have it. Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Okay, lower case
and capital again. Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Wait, novels are lower
case and poetry is upper case? I work on prose, you know. [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Okay, that’s a
possibility. We could think — you know,
we certainly could think about whether it’s useful to
think — let’s talk about this, and you can talk about
it in section meetings. Is it useful to make a
distinction between something that we might call
literature with a capital L and small literature,
with a lower case L. But might we also want to
think about it, you know, in terms of proper nouns
versus other things. I mean, one of the things that American literature
would suggest to us, one of the things we mean when we say American
literature is a kind of institution the
culture, right? American literature connotes
a set of books, textbooks, anthologies, syllabi, tests,
you know, all this stuff. It’s part of a large
institution that has to do with publishing and
universities. And it’s a big thing. And maybe lower case literature
is something that give — let’s us get an aspect of
text or reading or writing that are separate from
that institutionalized set of practices. Yeah? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>So literature
is very well put, something that a particular
culture has decided it worrying and should be preserved and read
and studied and carried forward. You know, extrapolating from
January 19, 2010 forward, yeah, Dan Brown will be on the
syllabi in 100 years. You know it. Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Yeah, that’s good. Literature grows out of what
a society decides it good. So one of the things
we need to think about is how does a
society decide anything? Because I think you’re right. But part of what we’re going to be investigating is how
does cultural change happen. In a word like society,
your description of it gives that agency, as if the
society could do something. But clearly a society
is also — doesn’t — the actions of a society
perhaps only can be understood in retrospect. In the present moment, it looks
like the actions or some total of actions of individuals. So how does you know, the horizon of expectations
actually function as you might say, the summation
of all of the collection of different horizons
of expectations. All of you are going to have
your own individual horizons of expectations. They are again going to be based
on, you know, your experience, historical moment, but your
particular experience is going to make them slightly
different from one another. Most likely, I’m
guessing, they’re going to fundamentally
overlap in some key ways, but they’re not necessarily
always going be the same. Some people might think
something is literary and something is not,
and there would be two — those two judgments would
rise out of different — you might say horizons
of expectations, conditioned by different
personal experiences. So we want to think about it. That’s a sum total. Just as we might say when a society acts it’s
somehow the sum total of individual actions. So we want to think about
how cultural change happens, using as a prism the
acts of individuals, which are the particular
writing acts of people that we’re going be studied. One of the things I
think we can suggest, at least as a hypothesis now, is that literature is something
that’s constructed by a society, it tends to be an expression
of a certain set of values that that society might take to be important or
worth preserving. But it is constructed. And what happens is it becomes a
kind of institution of culture. What do you suppose
literature means to the Puritans that we’re going start
reading next week. Does it mean the novel,
does it mean drama, does it mean lyric poetry? No, what do you think it means? If they don’t use it —
if they use the term, and they tended not to. Yeah. Religion. So the — the highest
work of literature, pretty much the only one you
needed, was a certain one book. The Bible. Yeah. Everything else is kind
of inundations to the Bible. So what the Puritans would
have considered worthy, if they were thinking
of literary, they would have thought of the
Bible, they would have thought of sermons, histories,
biographies, fiction? Doesn’t that mean lies,
doesn’t that mean untruths, isn’t that story-telling? Something happens in the course
of the period that we’re looking at to change our understanding
of what the literary is. We have a post romantic
notion of literary. Romantic writers in
Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, are
actively engaged in a process of redefining what
the literary means, linking it to an
aesthetic experience, living it on the imagination
of the inward life. And suggesting that it is
a discipline unto its own, separate from all those other
ones, from religion and history and philosophy and
all these things. And some of them would claim that in fact it’s the
highest discipline, and they wouldn’t
have been the first. I mean, Philip Sydney
[Assumed spelling] was talking about poetry being the queen of
all of the disciplines, right? So I want you to
get a sense of that. We need to historize in this
course our understanding of what literature
and the literary are. They mean something to
us today and that factors into our horizon
of expectations. They meant something different
in the 1600s into the 1700s, and we need to remember
that as we read those texts. Okay? All right, let’s talk
about America and American. What does that mean? I — you might — if you’ve
been listening closely, you’ve noticed that I’ve slipped
periodically from saying U.S. to — what’s the difference
between American and U.S.? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>America has to refer
to both North America and South America, doesn’t it? Well, probably, if
we were being –>>– I’m American, I
mean, they’ll probably know
what you’re saying, but it’s not true.>>They’ll know what
you’re
saying, but it’s not true.>>It’s no so distinctive
–>>So if you were in Paris
and you’re saying oh, I’m going to America next week, they probably wouldn’t
expect [Inaudible], right? Okay, that’s good. So let’s think about
what’s in stake in that. U.S. and American
aren’t exactly the same. There’s a sense in
which America is alive. You say if you take America
to mean North America only or even the U.S., in a sense,
that’s metaphorical speech. On the other end, you say
but people understand. So we’re all skittish about
using the term America, and yet it has kind
of cultural currency. There’s a certain way in which
America is constructed both in the United States and abroad. And there are certain
agreement about its meanings. Yes? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>U.S.M? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>So what does she want
to say? So she doesn’t want to
say American, probably, and she doesn’t want to
say — that’s a pickle. [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Okay, so we might say
maybe — I mean, you know, certainly in the literature
of the period, America, you’re talking about
this large kind of continent that’s
not fully explored. That’s part of the, you know,
the preenlightenment era, the era of settlement
and discovery. And after that we should maybe
be saying something else? Yeah? [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>So you think — so you
think
if you say, somebody asked you where you’re from, I’m an
American, does that mean — you’re making a patriotic
statement?>>I don’t know if I
would,
but I think that’s kind of –>>What else would you
say? I guess you could say I
come from the United States? I probably would say
I’m a New Yorker.>>I guess it depends
[Inaudible] — [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Okay, we might say
that it has validity, because it does precisely that. As you say. It conveys the sense
of a shared experience which transcends many
different kinds of boundaries. It’s a certain kind
of consensus. But it also — you
know, it isn’t the same as the political entity known
as the United States of America. It upon possibly is
something larger. It’s possibly a kind of
mythical place, that every now and then overlaps and not as
often as we like, we might say, overlaps with that actual
political entity we call the United States of America. Yeah. [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>It’s easy, right? Easier to say American than
U.S., U.S. sounds kind of — can’t say United States. Okay, it’s easier,
and I think it’s fine. And it’s part of our conical. So you know what
I want you to do? I want you to inwardly cringe
every time you use the word, just to be a little
self conscious about it. Because what I want you to
understand is that America, American, all that, the way we
use it and the way we use it and it gets understood, so
people understand what we mean, all of that is metaphorical. Or we might say that America
fundamentally is a trope. It’s figurative language. And we need to keep
that in mind. We’re going to see a whole lot
of unself-consciouses of it, but we want to be self
conscious about it. Just as we want to be self
conscious about every act of meaning-making that
we witness in the course of our reading and that we
engage in, in the course of our thinking and writing
this term, all right? It’s a trope. Now it can be a trope
that signifies inclusion. I’m going to put up a wonderful
sonnet that actually really buys into this idea of America
as something that means more than just the United
States, that does mean a set of shared values, it means
this set of shared values. Would somebody like
to read this for us? Yes, loudly. Stand up. Please. Really. [ Inaudible audience comment ]>>Thank you. Let’s give her a round. [ Applause ]>>Hey, it’s not easy to
stand up in the middle of everybody and do that. And I’m going to be
asking people to do that in the course of the term. So, thank you very much. Is that familiar to
anybody, any of it? Yeah, where, why? Statue of Liberty. Yes, the Bartholdi pedestal. This was written in part to
try to raise funds for it. Keep ancient lands
in story pomp, cries she with silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to be free. The wretched refuse
of your teaming shore. Send these homeless
tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside
the golden door. Come, welcome. Is that what we say
in this country? Is that what they said
yesterday in Massachusetts? Inclusion is a nice idea. And many people came
to the United States in the late 19th
century and you know, in the time that Lazarus
[Assumed spelling] is writing, with that dream of inclusion, and they found of
it, some of them. And some of them didn’t, right? American is a trope
for inclusion. It’s also a trope for exclusion. At the same time. And that’s one of the things
about figurative language. Figurative language
can embody paradox. And it’s almost always more
interesting when it does. That’s one of the things that
we’re going to be looking at. So one of the things
we might say is that a guy named William
Prescott writes a book in the 19th century called
The Conquest of Mexico. A lot of people read it. A man named George Bancroft
writes a book called The History of the United States. And when Prescott reviews
George Bancroft’s history of the United States, he
doesn’t see any connection between the idea of
conquest that he’s written about in the Mexican context and the history of
the United States. Rather, he sees in
Bancroft’s account the idea that the history of
the United States of America is somehow
providential. What does that mean, do you know
in we will know more about that in a couple of weeks — yeah. It’s the will of God,
it’s God’s providence. Pure — big word
for the Puritans. So you can see that
history-writing somehow is part of this larger rhetoric
of the providential. This is the same moment that
the term manifest destiny starts to be coined, right? Middle of the 1840s. Okay, so you might say
that there’s certain kinds of exclusion that are
based on the United States versus the rest of the world. And that’s part of what
we’re going to talk about. There are certain kinds
of other exclusion which we might talk about. There was a young historian
named Fredrick Jackson Turner who in 1893 gave an address on
the significance of the frontier in American history at
the Chicago exposition. Fascinating cultural thing,
if you are ever interested in thinking about
cultural sites. There was a big architecture
— there were pavilions, stuff was built, it was called
the White City because so many of the buildings
were white buildings that were temporary
structures, but designed to enshrine neo-classical ideas. That was the vision of America
that was being put forward. Turner writes about the fact that the west has
officially been closed, right? There’s no more westward
expansion. And he says one of the
things that accounts for the American
character, the way it is, is the existence
of the frontier. The frontier has created certain
kinds of values, ruggedness, inventiveness, individualism. And now the challenge will be
how to maintain those values with the closing
of the frontier. That was incredibly — that
was incredibly influential. Today we would say that it’s
kind of more like myth-making than real history-writing. But it set the pattern,
you might say, for a lot of historical
analysis. Became one of the founding
ideas in American studies. One of the founding books in
the discipline that’s known as American studies is a
book called Virgin Land, Myth and Symbol in
American Literature. Virgin land. What does that mean? Yeah? Untouched land. Meaning the American
continent, right? The Europeans came, they found
virgin land, they were able to have this frontier. It formed their manually
ruggedness, and we’re Americans
because of that. So that was taken to
be history, right? What’s the problem with that? They were kind of people here. [ Laughter ]>>But we exclude those
from that conception. That particular myth of
America excludes those, right? This is what Turner actually
said, that coarseness and strength combined with
acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical and
inventive turn of mind, quite to find expedience,
that masterful grasp of material things, lacking
in the artistic, but powerful to effect great ends, that
restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism
working for good and for evil. And with all that buoyancy
and exuberantism that comes with freedom, these are
the traits of the frontier or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence
of the frontier. This is exactly the kind
of rhetoric that you know, Reagan and Bush, too, all these
people draw on this rhetoric of what a true America is. And as we can see, it’s
predicated on a hidden kind of exclusion that we all — that
we don’t want to talk about. So individualism is one of the hallmarks you might
say of the American self. According to a large
number of commentators. What does individualism exclude
is what our little analyst Turner is writing
might lead us to ask. Tony Morrison has
an idea about that. Tony Morrison about
written and talked — there’s a famous moment from
an interview that she gave in Time Magazine,
where she talks about the engine
of American senses. What makes American. Some people say individualism,
the Turner frontier, all that kind of stuff, right? She says it’s a different thing. Something else that
makes most Americans feel like they’re American. She said, in 1989, I
feel personally sorrowful about black-white
relations a lot of time, because black people has
always been used as a buffer in this country between
powers to prevent class war, to prevent other kinds
of real conflagrations. If there were no
black people here in this country it could
have been Balkanized. The immigrants would have
torn each other’s throats out as they’ve done
everywhere else. But in becoming an American,
from Europe, what one has in common with that other
immigrant, so again immigrants, think of Lazarus,
immigrant, you know, new colossus kind of image. What that has in common with
the other immigrant is contempt for me. It’s nothing else but color. Where they were from,
they would stand together. Wherever they were from
they would stand together. They could all say
I am not that. So in that sense, becoming
an American, she says, is based on an attitude
of exclusion of me. Not inclusiveness,
not individualism. Exclusion of a particular
type, set of people. It wasn’t negative to them,
she says, it was unifying. When they got off the boat
the second word they learned was nigger. Ask them, I grew up with them. I remember in the fifth
grade a smart little boy who just arrived
[Inaudible] speak English. He sat next to me, I read well. I taught him to read
just by doing it. I remember the moment he
found out I was black. A nigger. It took
him six months. He was told. And that’s the moment
when he belonged. That was his entrance. Every immigrant knew he would
not come as the very bottom. He had to come above at least
one group, and that was us. And of course one of the things
we see here among the things that are cultural constructed
is that notion of blackness. It’s one of the other things
we’re going to be talking about. To one extent, what
is one of the things that American literature
that is trying to contend with is the presence
of the people that the Turner hypothesis
excluded. That are excluded, you know, that are excluded
legally as well. The preference of
people of color, whether they be Native
Americans or African Americans or later on Mexican Americans. Any number of people that
don’t fit a certain kind of Euro-American paradigm. To what extent is that, you
might say, the big problem with which American
literature is trying to contend, sometimes to paper over. Sometimes to actually
engage with. We’ll come up with
both of those versions in the course of the term. Again, what I want to stress
is that America is a trope, it signifies inclusion,
and exclusion both. It signifies providence,
individualism, and racism too. And a number of other
forms of discrimination that we will be talking about
later course of the term. All of this is part of
America, and therefore all of this is part of
American literature. Okay. We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their creator with
certain unalienable rights that among these
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is from where? Declaration of Independence. Statement of universal
principles, right? The basis for American
intellectual culture, the basis for our country. And there are people —
you will find text books that will say well, it’s kind
of written in the language of the 18th century a
little bit, you know, that all men thing,
they meant people. They would say well, they
transcended their moment, they created a set of principles
that could evolve and adapt and move forward
as the country did. That’s all true. But only in a deeply racist and patriarchal culture
could you say that all men are
created equal means that all people are
created equal. They meant men. Did women vote? No. Believe me, Abigail
gave John shit about this, he really — [ Laughter ]>>Not happy about it. You know, when do women vote? In the beginning of
the 20th century, okay? They didn’t mean all
men are created equal. Or if they did, they had a
very metaphorical understanding of what man was. You know, or [Inaudible] but they had a very literal
understanding of what man was, and also a very metaphorical
one. Because it didn’t
mean all men, did it? No. Not Native Americans,
not African Americans, [Inaudible] basically
meant white, property-owning European
and derived males. So I want you to
look at this and see that this too is
figurative language. Figurative language is all
over the place, and it’s part of our job as literary critics
to understand it and decode it and understand what
its power is. And these guys, people
like Jefferson, were men of the enlightenment. They understood the power
of the written word. And so did the people that
settled the United States. The age of discovery is in
part the age of writing. Okay? Columbus sails
not too long after, it’s roughly contemporary with
the Guttenberg Bible, all right? Text is about to explode
across the European continent. And discovery, the age of
discovery, is all part of that. Melville writing a sea
novel in the middle of the 19th century is
part of a long history that associates the sea
and text and imperialism and con conquest and race. All of these things become kind
of a nexus of associations. That’s part of what we’re
going to be trying to untangle in the course of the term. This guy, Christopher Columbus, he knew the importance
of writing. He wrote letters back to
his — his patrons in Spain. You will read a couple of them. A diary of his is preserved. The Diario Christopher Columbus. We know that he wrote a lot when he was trying
to find the Americas. And Jefferson too knew
the importance of writing. He told this to Lewis and Clark as they were doing their
scientific explorations. Your observations are to
be taken with great pains and accuracy to be
devoted to enter distinctly and intelligibility for
others, as well as yourself. So these guys are tromping
through unknown woods, and periodically, they
have to sit down and write. And that’s one of
them , all of them. They’re all writing. Thousands of pages are produced
by Lewis and Clark expedition. With the aid of the usual
tables to fix the latitude and the longitude of the places
at which they were taken, and are to be rendered to
the State Department — I mean the precursor of
the State Department, they are to be rendered to
the war office for the purpose of having the calculations
made concurrently by the proper persons
within the U.S.. Is this scientific exploration? To take possession of
a continent, really, you need to write
yourself across it. That’s what Jefferson knows. Writing is powerful. Several companies
of these as well as your other notes should be
made at leisure times and put into the care of the most
trustworthy of your attendants to guard by multiplying them
against the accidental losses to which they would be exposed. This is my favorite bit. Further guard would be that one
of these copies with written on the paper of the Birch. As less liable to injury
from damp than common paper. They wanted that writing
preserved and sent back there. Okay, so one of the
things I want you to understand right away is the
importance of writing to the age of discovery and the
age of imperialism. And one thing more. You know those people that
didn’t exist in the virgin land? You know why, one of the
reasons they weren’t thought to be people at all,
or worthy of notice? They didn’t write. North American Indians didn’t
have a written tradition. They had literature, yes. It was oral. For the Europeans,
that didn’t rate. Look for those moments when you
start to read Columbus or some of the other early settlement
narrative excerpts that we have. When they talk about
what they’re looking for, Columbus is looking
for kings and cities. He didn’t find them where
he looks in North America. He finds, you know,
all kinds of resources, and people without
number, he says. But nothing of importance. Okay. Last things. One of the things — so
this is what we’re going to be doing over the weekend. We’re going to be
looking at, you might say, the land chapters of Moby Dick. And we’re going to
use those as a kind of overture for the course. We’re going to use those to
frame the matter of the course from the early settlement
narratives all the way down through some
of the concerns of American romanticism. And they will therefore frame
the course with Moby Dick. So you’re going to
get your feet wet by reading the land chapters,
and then we’ll come back to the sea chapters at
the end of the term. That’s one thing you’re going
be doing over the weekend. You’re also going to be
reading a wonderful essay by Steven Greenblat, this is
an excerpt from it that talks about what cultural analysis
when literary people do it, and why cultural analysis
is necessarily rooted in formal analysis. In textual analysis. Close reading turns out
to be about culture too, and in Greenblat’s conception,
a master piece, a powerful work of art encodes much of
its culture within it. To understand the
culture, read texts. But to understand the texts, you need to read
the culture as well. So this is kind of a
reciprocal relationship, what we might say is a more
fluid relationship between text and context than you might have
been led to expect earlier. That’s one of the things
that we’re going to be doing as well over the weekend. For section meetings
which meet this week, please bring Moby Dick. You don’t need to read any
of it, you’ll be looking at bits of it in class. If you do feel like reading
it, read it from the beginning. Read the title page, the
dedication, and some of the — just look at the early pages. Does that look like
a novel to you? What the hell was
this guy doing? Okay, that’s part of what
you’re going to understand. You should understand
the practice of back in the old days. And you can still do
this on a Kindle, right? Kindle let’s you beam a few
pages to see if you want to buy the book or back when
we used to go to bookstores, we might browse and look
at the first few pages, decide if we wanted to
read the book or not. I’m here to tell you that
that’s actually a valid way of thinking. Because what books do in their
first few pages is set the ground rules for interpretation. So what you’ll be looking at in
section this week is what kind of ground rules for
interpretation are there. All right, before you go,
last couple of things. The lectures do a
certain kind of work. We might think of it as
kind of literary historical, and I will be doing
some close readings of moments within the text. But the section meetings
are crucial to this course. And if you have to pick
something to miss, miss me, do not miss your section. We have wonderful,
brilliant section leaders. They are sitting up there, I’m going to quickly
introduce them to you. In reverse alphabetical order, it’s Kara Zaverilla,
give it up for Kara. [ Applause ]>>Stephanie West. [ Applause ]>>And our token
male, Brendan Burn. Okay, there’s been a slight
change on the syllabus. Kara will be taking
the Thursday sections and not the Friday sections. Now there are wait lists
for the Thursday sections. There are also issues
with the space in the room of those Thursday sections. If you are on the wait list
for a Thursday section you need to e-mail me today and
tell me why you have to be in that section and cannot
be in one of the Friday ones. If you have a good reason, we will do our very
best to accommodate you. Okay? That’s one thing to note. You must go to sections. We take attendance at lecture,
we take attendance at section, there’s a big portion
of the grade which is participation
in section. Go to section. Okay? Am I forgetting
anything else, guys? All right, we’re off on our
great adventure together.

21 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. @Sprice962
    agreed, education has gone down south. elitists are dumbing us down and just because this professor is putting his students through "english boot camp" doesn't make a bit of difference that he is programming his students to be "citizens of the world" in order to serve the world government. He might be an Illuminatist. The students will only come out of college with cap and gown symbolizing that now that they have the knowledg, now they must play along to get along.

  2. Thank you so much, NYU and Dr. Patell! This is a better education than I could ever afford, and it helps me become a better high school English teacher. Don't listen to the jokers below me. I'm so grateful that you put this out there for free!

  3. I just arrived in Seoul from the United States (or should I say America?) yesterday and stumbled upon this video. Needless to say I was taken back when Dr. Patell looked at the camera and said "so if you travel to Seoul…" A great piece of intellectual candy for the day, thank you for posting.

  4. Are you kidding me? This is offered as a "free" course online, but after just a couple of minutes I know we won't be using this. Obama doesn't deserve a "peace" prize! What peace?He might talk about peace, but he's killed more Muslims – and Americans – in four years than GWB did in eight! He has waged more wars and made more enemies! He killed two Americans in Yemen without charge or trial, including a 16 y/o CHILD!

  5. Thank you NYU, and Dr. Patell. What a joy for someone like me to benefit from your knowledge and experience. Thank you for taking your time to give the information you have given!

  6. Oh please. Obama deserves the peace prize cuz he has a good use of language??!  He has used more drone strikes then Bush, he's killed hundreds of civilians, innocent women and children.  He's a murderer.  That's too big of a load of shit for me to swallow Mr. Patell.

  7. Pretty much everything he said, I already knew. I would probably drop that class because I don't think it would be worth the money. great example of liberal indoctrination in our universities

  8. They teach this in english literature in high schools. Also, the girl who read the sonnet read it so dully.

    Anyway, I'll listen through.

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